Benjamin T. King: ‘Divine right of kings’ becomes GOP’s platform

  • President Donald Trump waves as he steps from Air Force One as he arrives at Waukegan National Airport in Waukegan, Ill., on his way to visit Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 9/2/2020 6:20:08 AM

Some Republicans might not even appreciate what may prove to be the most enduringly significant fact about the just-concluded convention.

For every convention from 1856 through 2016, the Republican Party had a platform – a statement of the policies for which the party stood. The GOP abandoned this tradition this year, to sadly little note. The GOP’s statement of its mission at the 2020 convention? It stands with President Trump, declaring its allegiance to . . . whatever Donald wants.

As a former Republican, and as an American, I find this so troubling. We need competing visions. We need Democrats to oppose (in my view) the Republican love of immunity – shielding businesses from liability even where they act negligently and cause harm. If a nursing home exposes your loved one to COVID-19 through carelessness and failure to follow CDC protocols, we shouldn’t absolve that business from liability out of a design to protect business interests. Immunity promotes irresponsibility.

But, by the same token, I recoil at certain progressive ideas, such as “free college for all,” based on my belief that people don’t value what they don’t pay for. Giving away college (the consequences on spending aside) just seems to promote protracted adolescence.

But Trump has displaced any debate on policy, because the GOP no longer has any guiding policies or platform – other than allegiance to Trump. But that’s not policy. That’s hagiography. It’s the notion that “the king can do no wrong” because the king descends from God.

You can really only support the Republican Party’s decision to adopt “standing with Trump” as its platform if you accept Trump’s voice as the voice of God.

I find it hard to believe that God would mock the disabled, or that God would characterize white supremacists as “very fine people,” but neither of these things matters so much as the 180-degree shift that the Republican Party’s “stand with Trump” platform marks from fundamental American ideals.

The United States was founded out of ideas, not personalities. This is why, famously, George Washington refused to serve beyond eight years. Trump, unsurprisingly, has hinted at a desire to “serve” a third term.

I’m hopeful that this moment will prove an aberration in our country’s history. The GOP has, unfortunately, positioned itself against the ropes by tying its fate to one man. But despite the fact that I now donate to Democrats, I hope the GOP is not down for the count. Debates over ideas might just lead to solutions we all can live with. But no debate can be had, with someone purportedly bearing the absolute right of kings.

(Benjamin T. King resides in Concord and is a partner with the Concord law firm Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C.)

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