President Trump’s comments on Wednesday that we should take guns from mentally ill people and worry about due process later would, once upon a time, have set conservatives’ teeth on edge. However, my colleague James Hohmann writes that “only one Republican member of Congress appears to have sent out a press release objecting to Trump’s comments. ‘We’re not ditching any Constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them,’ Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement.”

Well done, Sen. Sasse, but we could have used more of this over the past year from Republicans, especially GOP leadership in the House and Senate. Republicans over the past year might even have taken action to make certain that we weren’t ditching:

  • the Constitution’s emoluments clause because the president doesn’t like losing his opportunities to leverage the presidency for financial gain;
  • the norm against putting unqualified relatives in high office because the president doesn’t like working without the ego-stroking and hand-holding only his family can provide;
  • the First Amendment’s protection for religious freedom because Trump doesn’t like grappling with the tough issues surrounding domestic radicalization and instead prefers to whip up xenophobic hatred against Muslim immigrants;
  • the First Amendment’s protection for a free press because Trump doesn’t like how members of the press are “able to write whatever they want“;
  • the concern for mounting debt because Trump doesn’t like going to the trouble of crafting a revenue-neutral tax reform bill;
  • the objective of containing Iran’s regional ambitions because Trump doesn’t like any issue regarding Iran except if it entails ripping up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal);
  • the obligation to preserve and protect the country because Trump doesn’t like annoying Russian President Vladimir Putin by, for example, increasing defenses against election meddling and imposing new sanctions;
  • the Justice Department’s independence from politics because Trump doesn’t like the idea that the department acts as the lawyer for the country, not as his personal legal attack squad empowered to take down political enemies and spare his friends;
  • the Senate’s “advise and consent” power regarding Cabinet and judicial nominees because Trump doesn’t like sending up names of only qualified, ethical people;
  • recognition of objective reality because Trump doesn’t like to learn facts or be accountable for his actions;
  • human decency because Trump doesn’t like female accusers calling out male abusers;
  • promises to protect the “dreamers” because Trump doesn’t like taking on his anti-immigrant base and muzzling Stephen Miller;
  • due process when it comes to enforcing the criminal contempt conviction of Joe Arpaio, because Trump doesn’t like punishing law enforcement officials for abusing immigrants’ rights; and
  • protection for the special counsel because Trump doesn’t like being put under a legal microscope.

From time to time, Sasse and others have tweeted or made tough-sounding statements, but Republicans haven’t actually done much of anything to restrain Trump’s contempt for democracy, democratic institutions, truth and basic human decency. To the contrary, they have enabled him by their silence and by refusing to act legislatively or through their oversight powers. Republicans, in fact, have been “ditching” most every belief and principle they once held in order to defend this president. Accordingly, they have made clear to voters that if they don’t want to ditch all these ideals and obligations, they better make certain that Sasse’s party doesn’t control the House or Senate.

Maybe if Sasse and others had, for example, investigated Trump’s receipt of foreign monies; objected or even challenged in court the Muslim travel ban, passed legislation to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III from being fired; censured Trump for pardoning Joe Arpaio; rejected a debt-generating tax bill sold on the false premise that corporate tax cuts would flow to workers’ salaries; or demanded investigation of, say, the reported payment of hush money to a porn star just weeks before the election, we’d know that the GOP didn’t want to trash our democratic system.