Leonard Pitts: GOP playing the game by different rules

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 9, 2020

By Leonard Pitts

Let’s try a thought experiment. Suppose your friend invites you to play Monopoly. But suppose she insists on a set of special rules applicable only to her. Like when she lands on your property, she only has to pay half the required rent. And for every house she buys, she gets one free. And when she passes “Go,” she gets $500.

How legitimate would you consider that game to be? How long would it be before you quit? Might you not even overturn the board on the way out?

Who could blame you? Which of us would stay in a contest where one side felt free to make up its own rules? You can’t run a game that way. You also can’t run a country.

Someone should explain that to the right-wing political establishment, whose members are up in arms over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripping up a copy of Donald Trump’s State of the Union address moments after he finished delivering it. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, that tower of Jell-O that walks like a man, pronounced this “pathetic.” Rep. Lee Zeldin called it “disgusting.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy dubbed it “petty.” And so on.

Which is, of course, hypocrisy on a galactic scale. A Trump enabler has about as much business criticizing a breach of decorum as Bill Cosby does teaching sex ed. Indeed, they have zero standing to lecture the rest of us on any question of right and wrong.

Especially given that GOP senators — and who, by this point, can deny that the “G” stands for gutless? — voted Wednesday to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial. With the singular, courageous exception of Mitt Romney, they chose to turn a blind eye to his use of public funds to extort political favors from a vulnerable ally.

Worse, a number of them even admitted that he did what he was accused of doing, rationalizing that he has learned his lesson now and won’t ever, ever do it again. As if the Constitution allows for mulligans and oopsies. As if Trump has ever shown the slightest ability to learn anything. No, the man will be emboldened by this — not chastened.

That said, the GOP’s false piety is hardly the only — or even the most — alarming thing about this incident. Remember, this isn’t the first time they’ve made up their own rules. No, from voter-suppression schemes to the theft of a Supreme Court seat to a campaign of obstruction against President Obama, this party — desperate and increasingly out of step with the nation it purports to represent — has cheated in plain sight for years.

You have three options when someone else is playing the game by different rules:

One, you can continue playing by the actual rules and appeal to them to do the same. But one gets tired of watching others “win” by cheating. One gets tired of always having to be the adult in the room.

Two, you can make up your own rules, too. But that invites a race to anarchy. If, for instance your side expands the Supreme Court to 11 members so that you can control a majority, what’s to stop the other side, once they’re in power, from expanding it to 13? Nineteen? A hundred and one?

Which brings us to Option Three: You can abandon the game.

That option is the reason those of us who fear for America’s future should regard this as an ominous, albeit symbolic, turn. Nancy Pelosi has served in Congress more than 30 years. She’s a committed institutionalist who has lectured her caucus more than once on the need for civility.

Yet Tuesday night, she physically ripped up Trump’s manifesto of hogwash and lies. In effect, she stood up from the table. And overturned the board.

Email Pitts at lpitts@miamiherald.com