In 1940, cooperation with the Germans looked like good sense to many French leaders. Germany had conquered most of their country, and by working with the invaders, these politicians and generals could maintain power. Even better, much of the populace favored cooperation. So while some French leaders kept fighting a seemingly hopeless war, others set up the “Vichy government,” which administered much of the country and assisted the Germans during World War II. Aiding the foes of French liberty, however, did these men no good in the long run. After the war, the French jailed or executed much of the Vichy leadership. And the nation came to view them with contempt and loathing. Some Vichy leaders had done great things before 1940, but that does not matter. History has given them an ugly name: collaborators.
History probably won’t denounce Donald Trump the way it reviles the Germans who occupied France. He’s not a fascist or anywhere near as threatening as they were. But today’s GOP leadership could still learn from the Vichy collaborators’ fate.
For the Republicans in the U.S. Congress and administration, a full-throated defense of the President makes political sense right now. Even Attorney General Barr, charged with investigating crime, finds it useful to help the President resist democratic norms. After all, vast numbers of voters still support Mr. Trump. But voters are fickle, and the passage of a few years often changes their views or at least dims their enthusiasm. And history has no mercy. History will remember Trump’s allies mostly for their support of the President in 2019 and 2020 — regardless of their other endeavors. Whatever happens to impeachment and to democracy in America, Trump’s advocates will ultimately be remembered as collaborators.
© 2019 by David W. Tollen.