President Donald Trump’s critics view Republican congressmen as his enablers. James Fallows describes their behavior as the most discouraging weakness our governing system has shown since Trump took office. He singles out Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska for scorn, because “he leads all senators in his thoughtful, scholarly ‘concern’ about the norms Donald Trump is breaking — and then lines up and votes with Trump 95 percent of the time.”
Another journalist, Ron Brownstein, has written similarly. When various Republican senators objected to Trump’s attacks on MSNBC co-host Mika Brzezinski’s appearance, Brownstein asked what they intended to do about it. Other Trump foes echoed this critique: The Republicans’ stern words were empty.
Most of this criticism is unreasonable.
It fails, for one thing, to account for what the Republicans have done. That includes “mere” criticism, since words matter in politics. Some of those words — such as “we need to look to an independent commission or special prosecutor,” or “our intelligence committee needs to interview” Donald Trump Jr. — can have a fairly direct effect on what happens in Washington.