Useful Idiots

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Filed Under Congress, General, Trump on Nov 14 

Useful Idiots

© 2019 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

Although originally a term used to describe unwitting communist sympathizers, the term “useful idiot” has come to mean someone who is supposedly on one side of an issue but whose public statements do, in fact, assist the opposing side. They are referred to as useful idiots because their statements support and strengthen the opposition, but such statements do not confer any benefit or credit onto them. They are “useful” to the opposition, but “idiots” if they think there is some personal gain to be had.

In modern-day American politics, such useful idiots exist predominantly in the Republican ranks. There are many such idiots whose statements and votes aid Democratic positions, but do not result in any strengthening of their personal reputation or public perception whatsoever. Such idiots never seem to occur in Democratic ranks, assisting Republicans.  

There are many high-profile Republicans who are famous for their useful idiot status. One of the most recent and notable is Mitt Romney. Romney—the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee—is about as a high-profile Republican as there is. His continual anti-Trump outbursts and holier-than-thou high-minded pronunciations are pounced upon by liberal pundits as “proof” that even many life-long conservative Republicans are opposed to President Trump and recognize his threat to the norms and accepted conventions of our culture. The fact that Romney is actually a very soft conservative who brought Romneycare to MA before Obama even introduced Obamacare to the country is very conveniently ignored by the liberal media. They enjoy nothing more than using a putative “conservative’s” words to criticize President Trump.

When the President announced recently that he was withdrawing American troops from Syria, the ensuing Democratic criticism was immediate and predictable. But when many well-known Republicans like Lindsay Graham and Mitch McConnell joined that chorus, it was surprising. No parallel Democratic public criticism was heard when Barack Obama did something everyone regarded as ill-advised, such as when he allowed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad cross the “red line” without consequences or when he sent Iran 1.7 billion dollars in cash (piled high on pallets, mostly in foreign currency), coincidentally just as four American hostages were being released. No one believed the risible excuse given by the Obama administration that the cash payment was unrelated to the hostage release but was instead a settlement for a totally independent arbitration agreement stemming from 1979.

Consistent with Obama’s many other amazingly weak foreign policy actions, the cash to Iran maneuver was a straight up “cash for hostage” move, in direct contravention to long-standing American policy. Yet no Democrat came out publicly and criticized Obama. No high-profile Democrat said it was a betrayal of our values as a country or that it would grievously weaken our ability to conduct effective action in the future or that the President violated the law or anything of the sort. The public face of the Democrats was consistent and unbroken. No criticism. Nothing even remotely for the opposition to latch onto as “proof” of Obama’s misdoings.  Let’s give the Democrats their credit for knowing how to play effective hardball politics (including how to leverage the already-sympathetic liberal media for maximum benefit): Democrats do not waver. High-profile Democrats never stray from the party line.

But high-profile Republicans stray from conservative orthodoxy all the time, perhaps in some misguided desire to appear “reasonable.” Democrats never reach across the aisle, despite what some of them say during their campaign run-up to the election. Once in D.C, Democrats oppose Republican bills, proposals, policies and Supreme Court nominees with astonishing consistency. About the only time a Democrat will vote for a Republican position is when the matter was going to pass anyway, and the Democratic politician has been “authorized” by their Party leadership to vote the other way in consideration of protecting their electoral viability in their home district. In other words, Democrats vote Republican when it benefits the Democrat in future elections.

This useful idiot seems to exist only in Republican dugouts.  Only Republicans have to confirm their votes over and over again to be sure their members are checking the correct box.  The Senate is currently 53-47 Republican. (Two of the 47 are actually “Independents” who caucus with the Democrats.) Once the House passes Articles of Impeachment—and they will, even if they are reduced to charging President Trump for the crime of putting mayonnaise on a corned beef sandwich—and it goes to trial in the Senate, it will take 2/3 of the Senate to convict him. That means the Democrats will need 20 Republican votes to reach the requisite 67. The fact that pundits and the President himself will actually have to analyze the list of 53 Republican Senators and make sure they have 34 “safe” votes says everything about how many “idiots” there are in the Republican ranks and that the Democrats have none.

It all gets back to the notion of what these squishy Republicans were thinking when their public statements go against their party and their president. Are they thinking that they have such high ethical ideals that they simply have to publicly oppose President Trump?  Are they thinking that by demonstrating such even-handedness on the public stage, even the liberal national media and their home district swing voters will accord them a significant measure of additional credit, thus smoothing their personal path to re-election?

Are they thinking that President Trump is truly focused on changing the incestuous ways of insider lobbying and deal-making by which so many politicians derive personal financial gain, so they need to stop him before their gravy train ends? In politics, self-interest usually rules the day. Democrats already publicly oppose President Trump for all these reasons, but they have the convenient cover of “opposing his policies” when they do so.

Seemingly “disloyal” Republicans very likely fear that President Trump—beholden to no special interests, intent on draining the swamp and not using his elected office for self-enrichment as are the majority of other politicians of both parties—will put an end to their cushy financial ride and self-indulgent D.C lifestyle, their celebrity and personal power and their sure-fire path to a soft, luxurious retirement.

Or perhaps, they haven’t thought it through at all.  They’re just unthinkingly shooting from the hip, without regard for how their remarks will be received.

In which case, they are indeed idiots. Although how “useful” is certainly debatable.

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