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Why Are Democrats Shielding Republican Liars?

Democrats who say their conservative colleagues confess their anti-Trump feelings in private have a choice: Burn your sources or stay complicit in the lie.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking with CNN on Tuesday morning, Democratic Senator Chris Coons danced a tired routine. As the interview turned toward the refusal by Republican congressional leaders to refute the lame-duck president’s dangerous attempts to invalidate the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota asked Coons why his Republican colleagues are feeding a paranoid, dangerous lie.

“Bluntly … they call me to say, ‘Congratulations, please convey my well wishes to the president-elect—but I can’t say that publicly yet,’” Coons said.

As Camerota tried to squeeze in a follow-up question, Coons noted, “These are conversations best kept private.” When Camerota asked when, exactly, Republicans might make their secret private feelings known, Coons stammered, finally, “My job here is to continue to urge them privately to do the right thing and help the president accept reality and help their caucus stand up publicly.”

The chickenshit actually said that!

Coons sharing the news that some Republicans are too scared to speak out in public— about the chief executive actively trying to undermine the legitimacy of an election—is useless information for everyone who is not a Democratic senator looking to boost their bipartisan credentials—or second grader’s capacity to keep secrets. Coons is not alone in this habit of treating wildly serious things—the man says his colleagues are openly lying to the public and facilitating a dangerous challenge to our elections!—as if they are small matters of personal integrity or whatever bullshit you’d like to call it.

Because it feels worth saying that bluntly: Coons, and Democrats like him, are complicit in the lie if they keep it.

The practice of Democratic officials bragging in the media about what conservative politicians confide to them in private is an old one; the Trump era has merely exposed how craven the practice is. And as we near its end, it’s insulting to have to listen to someone actively shield cowardly Republicans. That kind of attitude treats the public with contempt, as if we don’t deserve to know how the people elected to represent us feel about matters of serious consequence.

The most notable instance of this came following the impeachment vote in February, when Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio penned an op-ed in The New York Times. In his article, Brown wrote, “In private, many of my colleagues agree that the president is reckless and unfit. They admit his lies. And they acknowledge what he did was wrong.”

Brown, like Coons, did not deign to mention who was saying these things. All we knew was that they were Republicans and that they were mighty disappointed by Trump—a useful message, both for the Republican legislators planning for a post-Trump reality and for the Democratic senator purportedly speaking the truths shared in hushed tones by his cross-aisle buddies. Before Brown’s op-ed, it was Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts speaking with Greater Boston about his Republican colleagues. “In private, they tell me that they’re appalled by his behavior—and that this is the reality in their districts, they’re afraid of primary opponents,” McGovern said. “And I think there are moments you gotta put politics aside.”

McGovern was correct in his takeaway, but he was pointed in the wrong direction. When you have someone constantly acting as dangerously and recklessly as Trump, politics should be put aside—by the Democratic politicians Republicans apparently feel so safe confiding in! There is no good reason for Coons, or Brown, or McGovern, or any other Democratic politician in Congress to keep up the charade—much as it was obscene for Bob Woodward to conceal the fact that the president knew, early, how dangerous and airborne Covid-19 was while saying the opposite in public. If Republicans opposed Trump’s chicanery, they would oppose it. By acting as a conduit for the vague concerns of Republican legislators, these “in private” Democrats are either actively lying themselves—the my six-year-old said that he can’t believe the Bad Man is ruining the great American republic meme made flesh—or are concealing a dangerous lie. And why?

Burn your sources, or shut the hell up.