The political fuss stirred recently by Republican U.S.  Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake with their stated distaste for Donald Trump's style might remind some people of the time more than 40 years ago when another prominent GOP lawmaker spoke out against another Republican president, Richard Nixon. That man was U.S. Rep. John B. Anderson, […]

 

The political fuss stirred recently by Republican U.S.  Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake with their stated distaste for Donald Trump's style might remind some people of the time more than 40 years ago when another prominent GOP lawmaker spoke out against another Republican president, Richard Nixon.

That man was U.S. Rep. John B. Anderson, a Rockford native and the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House. But his break with the GOP became far more complete and profound than anything Corker or Flake has even hinted at. These two so-called mavericks have not departed much, if at all, from the conservatism that has marked both their careers. They've simply criticized Trump for being such a jerk. But they're still right-wingers.

Anderson was much different. By the time he turned against Nixon in 1973 at the height of the Watergate Scandal, he already had abandoned much of the conservatism that marked the early years of his congressional career. No longer was he the same guy who had three times proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would declare America to be under “the authority and law of Jesus Christ.”

Years later, Anderson disowned the failed amendment. “I vigorously affirm the principle of separation of church and state,” he said.

Anderson seemed to have been profoundly influenced by the civil rights movement in general and the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. in particular. It was then that he put his left foot in the political Rubicon and began his trip across.

Once a hawk on the Vietnam War, Anderson eventually called it a tragic error. On abortion, he came to the pro-choice point of view. He bucked his party on school busing, arms control, the Equal Rights Amendment for women, school prayer and certain environmental issues.

In 1980, Anderson ran for president — first as a Republican and eventually as an independent candidate — but unsuccessfully. After that, he became a popular speaker on the lecture circuit  and eventually faded from the public spotlight.

There is, in short, no good reason to liken the anti-Trump stances taken by Corker and Flake to the much more profound political changes advocated by John Anderson when he turned against Richard Nixon and the direction of Republicanism in those days.

Don't get me wrong. I applaud Corker and Flake for what they've said about Trump. But they both still represent a dangerous form of Republican conservatism that we should all reject.

I trust that John B. Anderson would agree with me.