In yesterday's piece I laid the blame for the current crisis on the patrician wing of the Republican Party—the Reagan-Bush-Bush continuum. But we have to go back further to see where this assault on the American middle class actually began.
In 1964 the Republican Party nominated a true outlier, Barry Goldwater, to be their party's presidential nominee. It was the election following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and a country still in shock was not about to stray from the ideals Kennedy had put forth and Lyndon Johnson had polished and refined. Goldwater had no chance, but his arch-conservatism reflected a movement within the party to change its direction. It would not be the party of Eisenhower and Nixon anymore, but of conservative thinkers who saw the rising middle class as a threat to the aristocracy and saw the need to squelch it.
Now 56 years later we have weaker unions, less upward mobility, and the widely accepted belief that the next generation will not do better than the previous one, nor will it live longer. The middle class stagnates on the treadmill envisioned by those early conservative thinkers, while the top 1% of the population own...well...everything.
The Republicans have played the long game while the Democrats trusted democracy to be the policeman. In the end, it took more than democratic beliefs to prevent the ascendency of someone as incompetent and unprepared as Donald Trump, and it will take the same people who installed him to get rid of him.
Even the Republican senators must now realize—after the debacle of Thursday's presidential briefing—that they are supporting a man who not only lacks the vision to be president, but lacks the common sense to lead a country. In this situation it falls upon Mike Pence and Congress to remove him, for even though at this point there is little Trump can do to make it better, there seems an unlimited number of actions he can take to make things worse—to kill more people.
We all know, regardless of political affiliation, that any man who suggests that people inject themselves with disinfectant, or who in a spate of misguided malice toward reporters jokes about it while the death count surpasses 50,000, is not fit to guide any country, let alone a broken one. The half-century-long quest for conservative rule has all come down to this—one inept leader and a cadre of fearful followers.
In 1964, Barry Goldwater's most famous speech included this: "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue." If any one statement ruined his campaign, that was it. But we may have arrived at the point where extremism is our only salvation—a point where the elected leaders of this country agree that this presidency cannot endure. It would be extreme and unprecedented for Congress, those disparate and divided public servants, to band together and remove the visible existential danger. It would take courage and fortitude few of them have ever shown, but it may be our best chance of surviving the invisible one.