Now it’s official: Republicans don’t know right from wrong

Michael Gerson is a Republican, former G.W. Bush speech writer, and columnist. Please read his latest column below. (I have condensed it considerably.)*

Susan Brooks. Brian Fitzpatrick. Will Hurd. Fred Upton.

These four Republicans supported a resolution condemning President Trump’s plainly racist “go back” taunt. The only House Republicans for whom decency still has a political application. The last, scattered exceptions to the rule of malice and bigotry in the GOP. They (along with ex-Republican Justin Amash) refused to rationalize.

Rationalization is the default setting of the human mind. We can’t reconsider our whole view of the world with every new piece of information. So we tend to accept evidence that supports our predispositions and filter out evidence that does not.

But in politics, rationalization can harden into a rigid ideology in which all questioning is disloyalty. And this cult-like ideology, if all the maleficent stars align, can become a cable network like Fox News.

In the mid-19th century, prominent ministers in the South employed the Bible to justify slavery. There were very few examples of unexpected or heroic resistance. Instead, ministers built a complex series of arguments to rationalize a system based on theft and abuse. And the issue was not eventually resolved by the triumph of superior arguments. It was left to those consummate theologians, the Reverend Doctors Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, to decide what in fact the Bible actually meant.

I am not equating slavery to the rise and rule of Trump in the GOP. I raise the example to show how hard it is — and how important it is — to examine the settled convictions of your own community and resist them when they are wrong.

July 16, 2019, should be remembered for its up-or-down vote on political and moral decency. The rationalizations in this case — that Trump’s statement was not technically racist, that the resolution violated House rules, that Democrats are guilty of similar offenses — had nothing to do with the morality of the situation. They were transparently self-serving and political.

As a society, we would punish racist taunts of this type if done on school grounds or a playing field. We can’t accept them in the president of the United States without doing great damage to public norms of respect and inclusion.

There is a point when rationalization reaches the soul and human beings lose sight of simple right and wrong. And 187 House Republicans have now officially reached it.

* His original text: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/187-house-republicans-have-lost-their-moral-compass/2019/07/18/7301f3b4-a980-11e9-9214-246e594de5d5_story.html?utm_term=.95dd56dee317

 

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