Eugene Robinson: On Tuesday, vote to take back the country you love

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Poll worker Annabel Garcia puts up signs to direct people who arrive to vote at the Salt Lake County Complex for primary election day on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

The Republican Party’s closing argument for the midterm election is a bit confusing:

“It’s all about President Trump — unless he angers, appalls or disgusts you, in which case we’ve never heard of anyone named Trump. We’ve also never heard of policies we’ve voted for repeatedly, like eliminating the guarantee of health insurance for those with pre-existing conditions or slashing vital programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Please forget that we cut taxes for millionaires and corporations but not for you. And please, please be terrified of a few traumatized refugees, mostly women and children, somewhere in southern Mexico.” The party then pulls down its pants and babbles unintelligibly before being gently led offstage.

The Democratic Party’s closing argument, by contrast, is simple and compelling: “Stop the madness.”

Just stop it. Vote to give Democrats control of the House, the Senate, governorships, state legislatures, everything. Take a stand for decency, for civility, for sanity — and, in the long run, help the GOP recover the mind it has lost and the soul it has surrendered.

Democratic candidates have been spending the final days of the campaign talking mostly about health care, an issue that affects us all. Republicans are dishonestly trying to convince voters they support the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections, despite having voted dozens of times to eliminate them. Democrats are right to keep playing offense on such matters of policy, especially where Republicans have no coherent response.

But the real issue is Trump. Midterm elections are always, at least in part, a referendum on the party in power. Tuesday’s vote is more than that. It is the nation’s opportunity to constrain and hold accountable an ignorant, egomaniacal, capricious and destructive president — and the once-great political party that cynically aids and abets him.

It is hard not to be exhausted by Trump’s outrages, but we should never become numb to them. Rare is the day that passes without a shocking demonstration of how unfit he is to be president and how much damage his self-serving antics are doing to the fabric of our society.

Here is one recent example. On Saturday, a gunman, apparently motivated by racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about immigration, killed 11 innocent worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue. On Tuesday, Trump visited Pittsburgh despite pleas from local officials to delay the trip for logistical reasons. On Wednesday, back in Washington, the president had this to say on Twitter:

Not a single word about the victims. Not even a word about the grieving city, except in the context of how Trump and the first lady were received and how the trip was covered by the news media. What kind of president can visit the site of such a devastating tragedy and come away thinking only of himself? What kind of person is so monumentally self-centered?

We don’t expect our political leaders to be paragons of virtue. But we need them, at the very least, to be capable of feeling empathy and shame. Trump’s supreme egotism and utter shamelessness differentiate him from all previous presidents. They allow him to deliberately divide the country by playing to white-nationalist anxieties. They allow him to warp foreign and domestic policy for short-term political gain — and to do so transparently, without the tiniest fig leaf of pretense. They allow him not to care what damage he has wrought, as long as he gets favorable coverage on the cable news shows he watches constantly instead of doing actual work.

So now he is threatening to void the Constitution’s guarantee of birthright citizenship by decree, which he cannot possibly do, and to send thousands of troops to the border with Mexico for no reason at all — except, he hopes, to inflame the anti-immigration spirits of his loyal base. This is not a normal or acceptable way for a president to act. It is like letting a spoiled teenager play around with the nuclear codes.

Vote on Tuesday. When you do, remember Charlottesville. Remember Pittsburgh. Remember how Trump snubs the leaders of friendly democracies and embraces thuggish autocrats. Remember how he always divides, never unites. Remember the need to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Remember your power as a citizen. Remember the country you love. Take it back.

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson’s email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.