Donald Trump would not have become the Republican nominee and then the president if not for the support, excuse-making, intentional blindness, moral obtuseness and political cowardice of elected GOP officials and party insiders. These Republicans could have done dozens of things to impede his way – denied money, withheld endorsements, denounced his symbiotic relationship with white nationalists, etc. They therefore bear a special burden when Trump behaves in ways they assured us he never would – trampling on democratic norms, attacking democratic institutions and giving aid and comfort to white supremacists.
In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, what could Republicans do?
▪ In the near-term, Republicans could hold hearings on the rise of neo-fascist and white-supremacist groups and demand that the administration get serious about combating domestic terrorism instigated by these groups.
▪ They could demand the firing of White House advisers (Stephen K. Bannon, Sebastian Gorka) who provide ideological ballast for the white-nationalist movement.
▪ Republicans could pass a resolution calling for removal of Confederate statues that celebrate those who took up arms against the United States and defended slavery. (Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie must do so immediately, especially in light of his narrowly defeated primary opponent’s campaign extolling Confederate monuments. The same goes for Senate candidates in Alabama.)
▪ Republicans could defund and denounce the ludicrous election fraud commission, which rests on the lie that there was massive voting fraud and is a thinly disguised ruse to put into effect new obstacles to voting. (Every state should be encouraged to have automatic voting registration, as Oregon and five other states and the District of Columbia have.)
▪ They could pass legislation granting permanent legal status to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries.
▪ Republicans could propose a shield law to protect reporters from having to reveal their sources, a rebuke to the president’s war on the press.
In other words, Republicans must, in as many different contexts as possible, demonstrate that they not only repudiate in words what the white nationalists stand for but that they are prepared to act in ways that specifically undermine the neo-Nazi, anti-democratic white-nationalist and alt-right groups’ vision of America.
However, even all that would not suffice. The problem remains – President Trump. Interestingly, the president put out a campaign ad (!) over the weekend calling out his “enemies.” The only meaningful way for a Republican to make amends for having lifted Trump to power is to declare now – put Trump on notice as he is already in campaign mode – that he or she will not support Trump’s re-election.
If Trump is not removed or forced to resign before then (and Republicans now have to keep a very open mind as to the conduct the special counsel and congressional committees uncover), he should not get their support. Who can honestly argue that he is fit for office and has demonstrated the moral, intellectual and temperamental fitness to serve? Indeed, Republicans who refuse to do that and who continue to treat Trump as a normal president of their own party should not themselves be re-elected.
It’s time for choosing. And it is time to repair the damage to the fabric of democracy and make certain the threat to our diverse, democratic society is extinguished, at the very latest, in January 2021. (Should Vice President Pence decide to reclaim his spine and wake his conscience from a deep slumber, he could also announce he’ll not be on the ticket with Trump in 2020.)
Too high a bar for Republicans, you say? Well, had Republicans not dug their political graves by supporting a man of such abominable character, their road to redemption would not be so steep. But heck, if they cannot bring themselves to make amends, voters can throw them out as well.
The Washington Post