The Mind of the Collaborator
Back when Russian monkeywrenching of the American election first became a serious issue, it was clear what needed to be done — and that the Republicans who controlled the House and Senate wouldn’t do it. Our nation’s sovereignty would take a back seat to the power they enjoyed, and that Trump’s victory made seemingly invincible.
Abandoning the strict decorum for which we’re justly famous, we called them traitors and cocksuckers.
Like many others, we also regarded their assent to foreign influence as a matter of provisional convenience: As long as Trump — and his supporters — controlled the field, Republicans who otherwise detested the man would let him play with his toys and sign their bills.
But if Trump ever became a serious liability — a threat to their own political survival — they would be happy to turn on a dime, declare their Shock! at the malfeasance that was just brought to their attention, and impeach the bastard. America is saved! By us!
This remains a reasonable evaluation, especially for the Republican leadership. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have no souls; that they remain able to cast shadows is a feat whose provenance makes us hold our children close and ask the forgiveness of our Maker.
But not everyone has a Horcrux stashed in Ayn Rand’s casket, and to credit all Republicans with such demonic potency is to make a mockery of the banality of evil. So what’s their deal?
David Rees, best known for his comic investigations into mundane subjects, has an answer: They’re in too deep to get out.
In a series of tweets Wednesday, Rees laid out his hypothesis:
GOP will agree to anything — I mean anything — because they can no longer afford a moral reckoning with what who and what they’ve enabled.
You can’t, by this point — especially after this week — call out Donald Trump without admitting your complicity. You knew who he was, you knew what he was, you knew the integrity of his campaign was being seriously questioned by government investigators. There is nothing that has happened since January 20 that didn’t have ample foreshadowing in the eighteen months prior.
And yet you went along. Hey, how bad could it get?
We find this a compelling explanation, if not for all collaborators, at least a fair portion. Others, who choose to join the Administration itself and subject themselves to an oath of fealty, require a different account. Their self-debasement is more immediate, more pervasive. They’re the ones who throw away a hard-earned reputation for integrity to participate in a hatchet job against someone whose defiance shines a harsh light on their deference. Better to be rid of it than reminded of it.
Whatever self-delusion guides them in the moment, history does not treat collaborators well. The Saturday Night Massacre — which, the Nixon Library gleefully proclaimed this week, did not include firing the FBI chief — involved two officials who resigned instead of dismissing the Watergate special prosecutor, and a third who ultimately did the deed.
We remember Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus for standing up to Richard Nixon, instead of kowtowing as their successors did this week. And we remember the weasel who was happy to exercise the abuse of power rather than resist it.
His name was Robert Bork.