Are some Republicans and conservatives finally rediscovering morality and their own consciences? Based on some of the latest columns by conservatives calling on the Republican Party leaders to dump Donald Trump, such seems to be the case. The final tipping point seems to be Trump's attacks on the Khan family, although his outright lies about why he is positioning himself to skip the presidential debates and the issue of refusing to release his tax returns may be helping the much belated recognition that Trump is incapable of changing his behavior and constitutes a threat to the nation. First, Michael Gerson has a piece in today's Washington Post making the case for dumping Trump. Here are highlights:
Leaders such as [Martin Luther] King believed that history has an arc, determined by the appeal of freedom and the Author of freedom. And their vision of human rights became an inseparable part of the American story: a nation that declared high ideals, then was judged by them, and now is motivated by them to expand the circle of inclusion, protection and promise.
I happened to visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the same time that a presidential candidate was attacking the mother of a fallen American soldier by employing an anti-Muslim stereotype (“maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say”). Donald Trump went on to assert that the soldier’s father, Khizr Khan, had “no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution” — a statement that proved Khan’s point.
My point here is not that Trump is a classless, egotistical sadist — though that case is strong. It is that Trump’s view of nationalism is based on culture, ethnicity and exclusion. It does not even matter if suspicious outsiders have made what Abraham Lincoln called “so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.” Their faith, in Trump’s view, is foreign and immediately associated with stereotypes of oppression and violence. The same is true with Mexican ethnicity, which Trump has identified with sexual aggression and murder. Trump is not merely indifferent to the language of racial and religious inclusion; he is actively hostile to the premise.
Leaders who support Trump — members of Congress, conservative thinkers, figures of the religious right — do so for a variety of reasons. But whatever their motivations, they are encouraging an alternate and degraded version of the American story. . . . And Trump’s America is defined as the familiar nation of decades past, which was largely white and Christian.
In fact, the United States is the model for the world when it comes to integrating Muslims and people of other faiths into a pluralistic society. Rather than recognizing this achievement, Trump would undo it and foster the kind of conflict he warns against.
But there is even more at stake. Those who support Trump are setting the Republican Party at odds with the American story told by Lincoln and King: a nationalism defined by striving toward unifying ideals of freedom and human dignity. Is this what the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, the chairman of the Republican Party and so many other good people intended when they entered politics? Is this how they define their soul’s high purpose?
In his last public address, the night before his murder, King mused on mortality, saying that he would die “happy” and “not fearing any man” because he was sure of his life’s mission, which included “standing up for the best in the American dream.”
Which Republican leaders can now rest in that confidence? It is not too late to repudiate.
Gerson is not the only one to recognize that there is something more important at stake than a GOP victory in November: the soul of America is at stake. In a column over the weekend, Jennifer Rubin, another conservative columnist with whom I typically disagree made a similar call to Republican leaders to dump Trump. Here are highlights:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana (R) knew what they were getting into when they climbed aboard the Donald Trump bandwagon. They had watched him insult minorities, POWs, the disabled and women. They had seen for themselves how utterly ignorant he was about basic policy concepts. They knew he lied about big and small things (e.g., falsely saying he opposed the Iraq War, reneging on charity pledges until shamed by The Post). They knew he’d stiffed and swindled Trump U students. They never should have backed him; they were abetting a vile individual attaining the country’s most powerful office, for which he was patently unfit. Pence went a step further in agreeing to be his running mate, and now travels around the country cheer leading for Trump.
Now Trump demeans two Gold Star parents. When slammed, he does not apologize or retract the remarks. . . . . The world-class narcissist claims to be worthy of the same sympathy (I sacrificed too!) as the parents who lost their son.
If Pence had a modicum of dignity or decency, he would tell the American people, “I made a terrible mistake. Mr Trump is so morally bankrupt and of such shabby character that I could not possibly serve with him.” Failing to do so, the same should be said of Pence.
In his interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Trump also revealed he did not know Russia had invaded Ukraine. (Putin’s “not gonna go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down.”) When George Stephanopoulos told him it already had, he repeated the Kremlin’s talking point that the people of Crimea wanted Russia to invade.
The offices of Ryan and McConnell wouldn’t comment on Trump’s slur against Ghazala Khan or ludicrous claim he’s “sacrificed” just as the Khans have. . . . . They know this but they are abdicating moral leadership because they cannot possibly justify their support of Trump. In their silence, they condone Trump and stand with him. They should be standing with the Khans.
Republicans’ refusal to un-endorse Trump puts their own character and judgment in doubt. It is fair to say that the Republicans who cheer him on — not Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), who refused to — are signing their own political death warrants.