What the world saw today in Michael Cohen’s testimony was a moral inquisition, and not just of the man on the stand. To no one’s surprise, House Republicans eschewed logic and cast aspersions on Cohen’s credibility by highlighting his crimes exogenous to Trump, pried for inconsistencies in his statements, and engaged in half-baked ad hominem attacks. This was the feeble kabuki theater of people who are disturbingly eager to go down with the proverbial sinking ship, but it was also highly counterproductive.
Ultimately, by painting Michael Cohen as a liar and a dastardly criminal, they made the same moral indictment of the man who paid him to be a professional criminal, Donald Trump. Yes, Cohen lied, but he did it for Trump. Yes, Cohen threatened people on Trump’s behalf, but he did it for Trump. Yes, Cohen conspired to falsify online polls, but he did it for Trump. He did these things for Trump, not because he was willing to be a patsy, but because Trump told him to do these things, and much more.
And then there were the Republican Representatives themselves. It was staggering to see Mark Meadows resort to using a human being, specifically Lynne Patton, a Department of Housing and Urban Development administrator and a black woman, as a voiceless prop to make a point of Trump not being racist.
Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib rightly decried the act as racist because, of course, using Ms. Patton as a human shield in some impotent attempt to prove that someone can’t be racist simply because non-white people work for him is in itself racially exploitative and a perfect example of institutional white hegemony. ‘Look at what a generous and colorblind person Trump is by giving Ms. Patton the opportunity to work for him!’ Nice try, Meadows, but the fact that you’d even entertain the idea of this stunt – and that none of your colleagues managed to stop you from doing it – says everything about how out-of-touch Republicans are with understanding the complicated and sensitive nature of race in this country.
The Republicans put on display exactly what it is they stand for in 2019. Whether their loyalty to greed, marriage to an ersatz tyrant, and aversion to truth will get them reelected in 2020 remains to be seen. What we can say for now is that they are not making a good case for themselves, or Trump, especially in an increasingly less-white America. Only time and the justice system will gift us more Trumpschmucks who will have to stare into a camera and tell the world that “what I did was wrong,” “and yet I continued to work for him.” Until then, we can take some solace watching the slow meltdown of a very cornered, very desperate Republican Party.