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Vichy Republicans now own the GOP

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“Vichy France” is a term of opprobrium to describe the French government after it capitulated to Hitler (May, 1940) and France became a vassal state of the Third Reich.

Vichy was a town in central France where the French government, headed by Marshall Philippe Petain, relocated after the Fall of Paris. (Petain had been France’s greatest military hero in World War I.) After Germany lost World War II and France was liberated, Petain was tried and convicted by his people as a Nazi traitor. He was condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He died, in jail, in 1951, at the age of 95.

Ever since then, “Vichy France” has been synonymous with being a puppet state and enabler of an evil regime; the film Casablanca makes this abundantly clear towards the end, when Captain Renault drops a bottle of Vichy water into a garbage can, which he then kicks over. “Vichy = trash” is the not-so-subtle message.

There is now a term, “Vichy Republican,” to describe the Republican Party and those individuals within it who support Donald J. Trump. It’s not clear who coined the phrase; the historian and documentarian, Ken Burns, is said to have used it in the early summer of 2016, prior to the election, when he referred to Trump’s “campaign of proto-fascism…disrespect for the judiciary…political paranoia…all virulent strains…that loom in front of us.

“I implore those Vichy Republicans who have endorsed [Trump] to please, please reconsider.”

Imploring didn’t work in the case of Marshall Petain and his collaborationist Nazis, and it isn’t working with Republicans now. Among the chief Vichy Republicans are Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, both of whom are “in full appeasement and self-abasement mode,” in the articulate words of the Republican writer, Bill Kristol.

Other Vichy Republicans include most sitting GOP Senators and House members and Republican governors, as well, obviously, as the Republican media attack machine, so reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda empire overseen by Josef Goebbels.

At his trial for treason, Petain was a broken, old man. “His eyes seemed to lack focus as the High Court prosecutor read out the long list of charges against him: collusion with the enemy, destruction of the republic and erection of a fascist state…the list ran on and on.”

When it was his turn to speak, Petain defended himself in a rambling justification. “I surrendered nothing essential,” he argued. “My actions sustained France. I prepared the road to liberation.” Unfortunately, Petain’s jurors weren’t buying it.

I would venture to predict that the day will come when Vichy Republicans–starting with McConnell and Ryan–have to answer for their own treasonous collaboration with Trump. It’s not likely they’ll get the death sentence. But imprisonment surely should not be off the table, for the enormity of the damage these Vichy Republicans are causing.

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