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Republicans Twisting Themselves Into Contortions to Justify Continued Support of Donald Trump

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This isn’t about tone, this is about a battle for the soul of America

Despite the fact that Donald Trump’s comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel have been rightly criticized as “racist” by leaders from across the political spectrum, most Republican elected officials and candidates are continuing to support their presumptive nominee.

So far among Senate Republicans, only Mark Kirk and Lindsay Graham have shown any signs of backing away from past support for Trump, while Sen. Ben Sasse and Sen. Jeff Flake remain adamant in their opposition of Trump.

The others are trying to make this an issue of “rhetoric” and “tone,” rather than values and character.  For example, Senator John Thune (R-SD) said yesterday, “I think there is always a hope that he [Trump] is going to change his tone, and I think there is an expectation that he is going to change his tone.”

This misses the essential fact that Trump’s racist rhetoric is connected to a policy platform of mass deportation, banning Muslims, building a wall with Mexico, and taking away the citizenship of babies born in America. What’s more, both Trump’s words and his policies are at odds with that cherished American value of fairness and equality.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of American’s Voice, “What’s at stake in this election is a battle for the very soul of America. We are not going to let hatred, bigotry and extremism win the day. We believe in an America that cherishes what you contribute, regardless of skin color, place of birth, accent one speaks with, gender or faith. Trump stands for an America where some people are privileged and others are the problem, and his policies reflect that disturbing view. It’s simply not enough for Republicans to express disagreement with Trump’s comments or ask him to shift his tone when our core values are at stake. Republicans need to rescind their support for Trump, stop working to elect him to the highest office in the land, and end the untenable ‘he’s a racist, but I support him’ explanations.”

Here’s just a sampling of key Republicans’ insufficient condemnations of Trump:

  • Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH):Senator Ayotte, who earlier articulated a distinction without a difference in saying she would support, but not endorse, Trump, said of his racist attacks on Judge Curiel, “I felt that his comments were wrong and offensive, and I’ve urged him to retract them … I’m running my race and focusing on the people of New Hampshire. I’ve said he’s our nominee; I plan to vote for him, but I’m not endorsing.”
  • Senator Richard Burr (R-NC):As Politico reported, Senator Burr attempted to explain away Trump’s comments and justify his support for Trump by citing that Trump has been consistent in his incendiary rhetoric and that his comments on Judge Curiel are somehow par for the course: “’I don’t think there’s a place for the comments that were made,’ said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). Asked whether Trump’s comments might make Burr reconsider his endorsement, he replied: ‘If they were inconsistent with things we’ve seen up to this point in the election, I would tell you it might. But I think we’re all sort of used to remarks being made that we don’t expect.’”
  • Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA):Des Moines Register editorial titled, “Grassley ignores judicial crisis and Trump’s racism,” noted of Senator Grassley’s failure to denounce Trump’s racist comments, “As Edmund Burke said, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. And when it comes to Donald Trump, there are invertebrates that have shown more spine than Sen. Charles Grassley.”
  • Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV):Republican Senate hopeful and current Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) stated, “He is wrong and owes Judge Curiel an apology.” Last month, Rep. Heck said, “I have high hopes that we will see Donald Trump become the next president” – support Rep. Heck has refused to walk back. As Nevada’s lead political journalist Jon Ralston wrote of Nevada Republicans who continue to support Trump despite expressing disagreement with his attacks on Judge Curiel, “If these Nevadans have taught us anything this cycle, they have clearly shown us where they draw the line for putting country over party, for being unwilling to sacrifice integrity for ‘supporting the nominee.’ They do not have such a line.”
  • Senator Rob Portman (R-OH):As the Cleveland Plain-Dealer covered, Senator Portman called Trump’s comments about Judge Curiel “offensive” and said, “I believe it’s wrong to say someone can’t do his or her job because of their heritage,” yet said he would continue to support Trump, saying “I do think you need to listen to the voters … And he did win pretty much every state.” Previously, Portman had vowed to support the Republican nominee “unless something crazy happens.”  Apparently, being an avowed racist is still not “crazy” enough.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL):Senator Rubio and other leading Florida Republicans, including several who are vying for Rubio’s Senate seat, are expressing disagreement with Trump’s comments – yet still saying they plan to support Trump over Hillary Clinton. For example, Sen. Rubio said, “I consistently said that, you know, if he became the nominee we would face these sorts of difficult choices we now have,” but then went on to say, given the “binary choice” between Trump and Hillary Clinton, he still will support Trump.

At the end of the day, acknowledging Trump’s racism but still pledging to support him is untenable politically and morally. As conservative radio host and activist Erick Erickson wrote yesterday:

“More Republican leaders are calling Trump’s remarks racist, but then they say they will support the nominee. That is an abomination. There is no shame so great as recognizing an evil and choosing to compromise with it. Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant and then it seeks to silence good. We are seeing that with Trump and his supporters who demand tolerance of Trump’s views, mitigation of views, revision of his views, and will consume and silence you once their position in the Party of Lincoln is secure. To have a Presidential candidate order his surrogates to attack a federal judge’s family heritage to benefit the personal business of the candidate is corrupt and vile. If you believe Trump’s comments are racist, you have an obligation to publicly reject him, not just say you disagree. Shame on you if you do not.”