If you’re like me, it’s totally depressing to read the current political news. Virtually the entire Republican Party is either afraid of former President Donald Trump or they are actively attempting to subvert the election process on his behalf. Republican-controlled state legislatures all over the country are attempting to enact voting laws that they hope will suppress Democratic voters – mainly minorities and young people. They’re also minimizing the authority of elected secretaries of state and empowering themselves to politically control election outcomes. It’s simply appalling.
After Democrats acceded to most of the GOP demands to create a commission to investigate the vicious attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, only 35 House Republicans voted for the resolution and Senate Republicans have filibustered and defeated it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), along with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), fear such an inquiry would anger Trump’s base and hurt their chances to retake control of the House and Senate in 2022. They apparently aren’t concerned about protecting our sacred buildings, our institutions and members of Congress.
The people elect representatives to be leaders and to faithfully carry out their duties in accordance with the Constitution. Most expect that these representatives will identify threats to our democratic processes – like Trump and his supporters – and enact measures to thwart their efforts. Instead of calling out these insurrectionists, however, most congressional Republicans are too cowardly to fight them, so they stand by in fear or join them in weakening our democracy. These pitiful politicians are so politically oriented that nothing else matters, not democracy, the Constitution, the nation nor the welfare of its citizens. All they care about is regaining control of Congress.
Yet, what do they plan to do when they have the power to draft and pass the laws? Will they diligently sponsor legislation – like President Biden and the Democrats – to shore up the election system, repair and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, narrow the huge and widening inequality gap between the ultra-rich and lower income workers and provide more and better health care of all Americans? Hell no! McConnell was crystal clear about Republican objectives recently when he stated emphatically that he’s “100%” focused on “stopping” the Biden administration.
I have been trying to take my mind off the blatant cowardice that is being displayed by Republican politicians by remembering some heroes who have shown real courage, even one who once stood among them, the late former Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). He endured over 5 years of captivity and brutal torture in a foul, North Vietnamese prison. As the son of a U.S. Admiral, he could have been released but he refused to go without his fellow prisoners.
What caused me to admire John’s courage as a politician, however, was a brief exchange he had with a supporter at a townhall meeting during his 2008 campaign against Barak Obama for the presidency.
A woman who had the microphone approached McCain on the stage and said, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and ….. he’s an Arab.” McCain immediately started shaking his head and took the microphone from her. “No ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues …..”
I have watched the video of this exchange numerous times and wished that we had even a few Republicans like him in the Senate today. We can only hope that John McCain was not the last of the courageous politicians with an (R) after their name.
Another man with great courage was Leonard Rivkin, a lawyer I worked with in the 1980s, who I was proud to called a friend. He wasn’t a big man physically but he had great legal skills and a larger-than-life personality.
There was a small, framed document on a side wall in Len’s office that explained how he earned a Silver Star medal – the third highest military service award – for action against the enemy during World War II.
Army Pfc. Rivkin was with a column of 40 vehicles that was advancing down a road in Germany on April 14, 1945, when the road came under fire from two German 88 mm artillery pieces situated on the crest of a hill. Other troops scattered for cover in nearby fields but Rivkin, “disregarding the fact that the enemy positions were protected by machine gun fire… dashed forward 400 yards across an open field and, without regard for his personal safety, single handedly set up his light machine gun and prepared to rake the enemy strongpoint. Pfc. Rivkin, along with two officers, then boldly advanced across the field toward the enemy guns and captured 80 prisoners of war. The valor and magnificent courage displayed by Pfc. Rivkin were a distinct inspiration to his comrades and reflect high credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.”
Len risked his life to save his unit from an attack by German artillery. Senate Republicans won’t even risk their political careers to save our democracy from an attack by Trump and his radical supporters – and all Americans should be appalled.
Postscript: Like so many other heroes of World War II, Len Rivkin is no longer with us. He passed away peacefully in his sleep last year at age 95, after a long, remarkable and productive life.