“The Second Coming” is a powerful and often quoted poem by William Butler Yeats that predicts an apocalypse with a frightening “rough beast” instead of a savior that “slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.” The current political scene may inspire more writers and journalists to quote Yeats, particularly his famous line. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” It might help elucidate the bitter debate not just between Democrats and Republicans, but the Republican Party at war with itself and President Donald Trump. It is nothing new, of course. The 1800 presidential race between old friends John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was brutal and even included early versions of “fake news.”
Currently, the retirement of Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona may not be that unusual considering their future prospects of reelection, but Flake’s public denunciation of President Trump as “reckless, outrageous and undignified” is unusual. Normally, these comments would be private, and both senators are, by any standard, very strong conservatives. One would assume Trump would find them allies. Corker was against unions, for instance, and Flake, though perhaps more sensitive regarding immigration, wanted an amendment banning gay marriage. Flake is considered by some to be more Libertarian than Republican in his political values, and Corker, once accused of running a racist campaign against his rival, Harold Ford, was an early supporter of Trump. Recently, he accused Trump of being a “liar” and a “threat to the Constitution.”
Just what happened?
Writer and Yale history professor, Geoffrey Kabaservice, sees Trump’s rude behavior and refusal to compromise as a dangerous standard and detrimental to the Republican Party.
He said, “The virtues once preached by (William F.) Buckley and Reagan — pragmatism, compromise, cooperation, realism, bipartisanship, restrained but competent government — now fill party activists with contempt. … It must have come as an unpleasant surprise to rock-ribbed conservatives like Sens. Corker and Flake to realize that a near-impeccable ideological voting record is no longer a defense against being attacked by the movement they once belonged to.”
Lincoln and Jesus said it well: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Kabaservice ended his editorial with a line that should be disturbing to all Republicans: “Moderates haven’t had a home in the Republican Party for years. Now it appears that traditional conservatives like Corker and Flake will join them in political exile, unless and until some Reagan-like leader emerges to tame the furies of the conservative movement.”
Trump insists that he has a unified party behind him, and no other Republicans have vocally supported the sentiments of Corker and Flake. Despite that, I am not sure Democrats can take any joy from this recent turmoil among their rivals. Isn’t the purpose of government to serve the needs of the people? A civil war in a political party or country threatens everyone.
Michael Corrigan graduated from San Francisco State with an MA in English and creative writing. He is a retired instructor of English and speech communications from Idaho State University. He has written several articles for various outlets, including Atticus Literary magazine online.