I tuned in to the first Republican debate to see how the eight candidates on stage would handle the elephant in the room: Donald Trump. The moderators didn’t even raise the issue of the former president for the first half hour, so I got tired of the preening and sound biting and interrupting and turned it off. I later learned about the most salient feature of the entire debate: Six of the eight people on stage said that if they were elected president, they would pardon Donald Trump if he were to be convicted of a felony. Members of the Trump-friendly studio audience whooped their approval. Yahoo! Give the crook a break.

That is a sad commentary on today’s Republican Party. The party of law and order has become the party of lies and disorder. The people who purport to defend the Constitution have become unapologetic defenders of an unrepentant conman who thumbs his nose at the Constitution and any other judicial restraint. The party that once valued people of principle like Dwight Eisenhower, Howard Baker, John McCain and Olympia Snowe now give their allegiance to a charlatan like Donald Trump and his loyal band of sycophants, such as Kevin McCarthy, Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. Rush Limbaugh, to whom Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, would be smirking from his grave.

Bret Stephens, a conservative journalist and editor, summed it up nicely when he wrote, “Ron DeSantis was right when he said at the debate that America is a nation in decline and that decline was a choice. He just wasn’t right in the way he meant it. We’re in decline because a spirit of lawlessness, shamelessness and brainlessness has become a leading feature of a conservative movement that was supposed to be a bulwark against all three.”

Where are the good, ethical Republicans when we need them to stand up for the Constitution and not bow down to Trump? In fairness, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger did their best and got sidelined by the nation’s Republican leaders and right-wing media outlets. But surely there are more people of principle willing to call out the man who’s a real threat to American democracy. Why have future Republican presidential candidates been so loath to take him on? Where are you, John Kasich? Where are you, Chris Sununu? Where are you, Larry Hogan? And why have you moderate Republican senators (Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski) not taken to the Senate floor and the airwaves on a daily basis to sound the alarm re Trump? And, as mentioned in an earlier article, where are you, Sen. Angus King? It is not the time to fear the reactions from your fellow senators. It is time to save American democracy.

Most readers of this column agree with my political leanings, but there are some noisy exceptions. One reader bashes me for being a Trump-hater and says calling Trump a threat to democracy is a scare tactic. I asked that reader to defend his views in an opinion piece. He declined. In a later exchange, I offered to debate him in public on the topic. I suggested that I pick a fellow debater to take the “yes” side of the “Trump is a real threat to American democracy” issue. He could pick another person to take the other side. He, of course, declined. No surprise there. I had earlier sent him an email with a quote from John Dean. To wit: “It’s much bigger than Watergate. It’s a whole different dimension. It goes to the very foundation of democracy.” True to form, my antagonist disparaged Dean, the messenger, not Trump, the menace.

Happily — and at long last — the wheels of justice seem to be grinding away. Trump will have a full schedule in the next year, what with juggling his campaign rallies, where he describes federal and state prosecutors as “thugs” and proclaims his innocence and tries to defend himself in court. To his “credit,” to bastardize the term, he’s still able to grift his blind followers. Apparently, they broke out their checkbooks to buy “Never surrender” T-shirts and mugs after he’d surrendered to authorities in Georgia. Maybe they missed the irony.

Another happy event. Many legal scholars — many of them conservative — have issued opinions that Trump should be disqualified from holding office because of the 14th Amendment. No person shall hold public office who “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same (the Constitution) or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Please join me, dear readers, in standing up for democracy and against Trump. As one small step in that direction, I recently bought a T-shirt (and a sweatshirt) that states, “No one is above the law.” It’s not the time to “stop talking about politics” as much as most Americans just wish that Trump would go away. Let’s work together to make that happen.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. dtreadw575@aol.com.

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