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Have you no shame?

| Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Shame can be a useful tool for unlearning behavior. For example, today I felt some shame when I was somehow late to every class despite the fact they were all in the same building. Hopefully, the shame I felt today will prompt me to be on time tomorrow, and in this way it will help me be better. Shame is a social emotion that feels bad but often produces good results in society. But what happens when shame does not have its desired effect?

Enough has been said about shame in the age of President Donald Trump, whose rhetoric and governance has allowed racists, sexists and neo-Nazis to re-emerge unshackled from the shame that kept them quiet for so long (or at least quieter). We are now, however, seeing a new problem: shame and the Republican Party.

If you’re wondering what members of the Republican party might have to be ashamed about today, I invite you to take your pick: Recently, after issuing a new rule that would prohibit poor immigrants from legally moving to the U.S.; the Republican director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services claimed the poem on the Statue of Liberty — the one about the tired and poor yearning to breathe free — applied only to European (read: white) immigrants. Last month, Republican Representative Steve King questioned if there would be “any population of the world left” if not for rape and incest. This week, after a whistleblower alleged that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to open an investigation for his own personal gain — an act that may violate campaign finance laws and jeopardize national security — GOP members of Congress have yet to join Democrats in demanding the acting director of national intelligence turn over the complaint, something he is mandated to do by law. Even John Kasich is shocked, asking, “And where are the Republicans? What are they, hiding?” 

It’s a good question, and it shouldn’t just be directed to Republican politicians, but any American who still supports the Republican Party today. I’m not just talking to Trump supporters; on the contrary, I’m talking to the average Republicans, the ones who are disgusted with Trump yet who remain in his party. I ask you: Are none of these national embarrassments enough to make you question your membership to the Republican Party? What do you gain from your support of the GOP, and what would it take for you to leave?

I have a few guesses as to why the shame of being associated with this party that is rotting from the inside is not enough to sway constituents away. Perhaps it is out of the hope that the party will change. If the good guys leave, the party will only have the bad seeds left, and then there will be no chance of rescuing it. This may be true, but I believe this is a misunderstanding of our political system. Politicians don’t care if you feel bad about what they’re doing. They care if they stop getting voted into office. If loyal constituents, especially the ones who don’t like the current administration, renounce their membership and stop voting these people into office, then perhaps the Republican Party will make some changes. Otherwise, all your hand wringing will continue to accomplish nothing.

People may stay with the Grand Old Party for more insidious reasons, too, like our dear guest lecturer Paul Ryan, with his dreamy blue eyes and his complete inability to pass legislation. Maybe most Republicans, like Paul, don’t care what the GOP does as long as Mitch gets his justices on the Court and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gets repealed. While I commend the goal-driven attitude, I find this approach to be problematic. First, you don’t get to absolve yourself of guilt just because you’ve shut your eyes to what’s happening around you. Second, it doesn’t even seem to be working. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has remained mostly in the middle, voting conservatively and liberally depending on the case. The ACA has of course not been repealed, despite our dear guest lecturer’s best efforts, and the right to an abortion remains the law of the land. 

So what is it, exactly, that keeps the Republican Party afloat? It could be the fear that if the GOP doesn’t hold power then the Democrats will, and that is a far scarier situation than the one in which we currently find ourselves. I honestly have no response to that, other than if you think a Democratic government could somehow do worse than imprisoning record numbers of children in cages at the border and attempting to ban Muslims from the country, then we won’t agree on much. 

I am not asking current members of the GOP to jump ship to the Democrats, but I am asking you to take stock of your party, and ask yourselves if you can continue to support it in its present state. If the shame is too great, then I encourage you to stop voting and donating as though you do. It is no longer enough to say that you hate Trump and that you don’t support his policies — you need to do more. Stop voting Republicans into office when you know they will continue to foster the current political climate and stop donating money to their campaigns. The only way you can stop this train wreck is by showing you don’t support it instead of merely saying you don’t. Renounce your membership to the party that got us into this mess. 

If you are looking for traditional conservative values, you will no longer find them within the GOP. If you believe that the current party is getting close enough, then I would argue you would benefit from a healthy dose of shame.  

Mary Szromba is a senior majoring in philosophy and political science, and she’s never been wrong about anything in her entire life. Questions, comments and anonymous love letters can be directed to [email protected] or @_murrrrrr on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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