If this be treason…
Mitt Romney is a backstabber and a traitor. That is the consensus in the so-called conservative (i.e., progressive-populist-demagogue-Trump-cult) media today.
A traitor. Because he betrayed…his party? The president whose impeachment charges he swore an oath to evaluate objectively? If the first, his party, then this would mean it is the moral duty, the honor-bound obligation, of every elected politician to vote on every issue in the manner agreed upon by the majority of his party’s members. Why, then, are these issues decided on a one-man, one-vote basis? Does that format not imply that a senator could, in theory, vote against the majority of his party members without this disagreement being, in itself, any sort of moral flaw or dishonorable conduct? Surely the Framers of the Constitution, and the generations of statesmen who established the current rules and standards for deciding such issues in the senate, were not merely setting a treason trap when they determined that each senator should be allowed his or her own separate, equal vote. Surely their intention was not merely to allow members or supporters of either party to easily identify the traitors among them by tricking subversives into exposing themselves with a vote against their assigned and morally mandatory party position.
Surely Mitt Romney knew, when he decided how to vote, that his vote would be public and widely known, and that his speech defending that vote would be made into a microphone, broadcast around the world, and therefore immediately identifiable as an act of betrayal and backstabbing — if that were indeed the case.
If a Democrat such as Joe Manchin had decided to vote for acquittal, against the otherwise unanimous choice of his fellow Democrats, would the people now calling Romney a traitor be applying the same epithet to Manchin? Or would they be calling him a hero, a man of conscience, a brave individual standing up against his party’s orthodoxy?
I am not suggesting that all dissenting votes are created equal, in the sense that simply disagreeing with the majority of one’s party is always and in all matters a great thing. But “traitor” and “backstabber” are serious charges, and I don’t mean that in the strictly legal sense, which of course is not applicable here. I mean as a moral accusation. The traitors occupy the lowest circle of Dante’s Hell, below murderers, rapists, frauds, and all the rest. The definitive traitors in Dante’s, and the West’s, tradition — Satan and Judas — are indicative of how weighty an accusation this is, and why one should not throw it around casually, in a serious context, unless it be done purely in fun.
In this case, the accusers are very explicitly not using the term in fun. They are using it in earnest — to describe a man who merely disagreed with the orthodox opinion among his political party, in judging the murky and questionable actions of a man that some of these accusers, if they are being honest, know perfectly well is a deeply compromised and horribly ill-suited and unprincipled president.
Which leads us back to the second possible explanation of this “traitor” and “backstabber” charge, as applied to Romney, namely that he is a traitor to Donald Trump. But Romney was a senator serving as a juror in the impeachment trial of the president, and swore an oath to render impartial justice on the basis of the evidence. Is a juror in a criminal trial fairly described as a traitor if he finds the accused guilty — even if he is the lone dissenting vote on the jury?
In this case, to call a man a traitor for voting, with articulately expressed reasons, to remove from office such a repulsive and undignified amoralist as Donald Trump, is worse that irresponsible and careless, although it is certainly those things too. It is to dispense entirely with any rationality in one’s language use, one’s moral judgment, or one’s sense of propriety and civilized discourse.
Donald Trump openly enables, flatters, and supports totalitarian tyrants guilty of horrifying inhumanity. He praises them, defends them against their enemies — who also happen to be America’s allies — and grants them outrageous and unreciprocated concessions, even at the cost of innocent lives.
And Mitt Romney is the traitor here? He’s a traitor because he objected to just one of Trump’s nation-damaging acts — and not anywhere near the worst of them — enough to say that Trump no longer deserves to be in office?
Project much, cultists?
And this is the point. This cheap, meanspirited outcry of “traitor” and “backstabber” against a man whose conscience happens not to line up perfectly with “the team” or “the Dear Leader” is just the sort of thing a cultish sycophant and tribal true believer would say — and yes, I choose those epithets carefully, and use them in their precise meanings and in the rationally appropriate context.