Rebellious legislators are healthy for liberty, but only if they rectify the injustices of the failed executive.
The histories of Rome and Washington have long been intertwined. Since the early days of America, the Founding Fathers ingrained law, philosophy, and even architecture from the Republic of antiquity into their own. Today, yet another commonality arises between the two republics: An establishment senate pitted against an unconventional and often authoritarian executive.
Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) could never be described as good friends with President Trump, as Brutus was to Caesar. They hesitated to endorse then-candidate Trump upon his nomination to lead the Republican ticket, and once assuming office their support for him could only be described as cool and distant at best.
Recently, both have broken their fragile truces with the President, and have plunged their proverbial knives into their haughty chief. Corker, after being attacked on Twitter by the President, and Flake, during a speech to the Senate in which he said “enough” to what he believes to be damaging and divisive rhetoric from the President.
Their dissent has been healthy. Corker has stood up for fiscal responsibility, stating he will not support a tax cut proposal that increases the deficit, and Flake is not wrong with regard to the President’s damaging rhetoric. Trump, among many other incidents, has recently alluded to the possibility of NBC losing their licensing due to concerns of “fake news”, a major challenge to constitutionally-protected press freedoms. Therefore, they should be commended for embracing their power to act as a check and not as a rubber stamp for the executive branch.
More Republican senators also seem on the verge of turning (or already have) on Trump — Senator John McCain (R-AZ) comes to mind — and if they do a metaphorical Ides of March may soon be on the way.
Establishment Republicans, moderate and conservative alike, may well band together and knife down the proposals of our populist president, effectively taming him for the remainder of his term. Yet, they must heed this warning: If that is all they do, they will still suffer defeat, just as the assassination of Caesar alone did not save the Roman Republic. If congressional Republicans fail to pass an Affordable Care Act repeal and a replacement bill and tax reform/cuts that are also fiscally prudent, they will have forsaken and angered their voting base. Revenge from the populace will come in one of two forms:
- Far-right leader Steve Bannon will successfully organize a populist primary revolt ushering in a field of Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections much more open to protectionist trade policies, overt social conservatism, and right-wing identity politics.
- A resurgence of the Democratic Party that has recently been enamored by the siren song of socialism, most notoriously peddled by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
While establishment conservatives and moderate Republicans have their serious faults, neither of the above outcomes is preferential in comparison to them for those of us who wish to shrink and reform the state in the direction of free markets and social toleration.
So senators, subdue Caesar, as you should. But do not forget to make the reforms necessary to save and strengthen the republic from the barbarians approaching the gates.
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