Challenging the Republicans, Part 1: Repudiating Trump

donald trumpColumn by Andy Schmookler

Earlier today, President Obama said this:

“I think what’s been interesting is the repeated denunciations of his statements by leading Republicans,” he said in a press conference. “The question I think they have to ask themselves is, if you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? What does this say about your party that this is your standard-bearer? This isn’t a situation where you have an episodic gaffe. This is daily and weekly where they are distancing themselves from statements he’s making.” […]

“There has to be a point in which you say this is not somebody I can support for President of the United States, even if he purports to be a member of my party. The fact that that has not yet happened makes some of these denunciations ring hollow.

Presumably he had in mind “leading Republicans” like Paul Ryan and John McCain, who speak out in opposition to one Trump outrage or another, but do not withdraw their previous endorsement of this terrible man for President.

But every Republican office-holder – in Virginia, and in the nation – should be challenged in this way. Challenge those running for office, and challenge those office-holders who are not up for re-election this year:

Do you endorse Trump? If so, how do you justify supporting a man to become president who… [fill in the portrait of a man manifestly unfit for that office]? And if you do not endorse him, stand up and be a leader to your followers and tell them why you cannot support this man, even if he is the nominee of your party.

No free pass allowed this year. Push them all to take a stand. Which ever way they go, it’s a win.

If they repudiate Trump, it helps to damage Trump for the general election, strengthening the conditions for a possible landslide victory. (The departure of rats conveys the impression that the ship is sinking.)

If they endorse Trump, they help cement the tie between Trump and the Republican Party, increasing the richly-deserved damage to the GOP for nominating such a person for our nation’s highest office. (That tie is real, because Trump has gained the nomination by harvesting what the Republicans have been sowing for a generation, and making blatant what has been thinly disguised for years.)

This could help bring to pass the much-discussed (much-disgust) “self-destruction of the Republican Party.”

Indeed, it may be better for America if the Republicans refuse to repudiate Trump. Trump can be their cement shoes, dragging them down while the waters close over them.

(For example, I would bet at this point that Paul Ryan has damaged his future prospects by holding onto his Trump endorsement, while Ted Cruz’s refusal to get on board will prove to be not political suicide but an effective long-term strategy.)

Next installment: Challenging the Republicans: II – Will You Stick with Obstructionism?

Andy Schmookler – who was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia’s 6th District in 2012 – is the author most recently of WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World – and How We Can Defeat It.

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