The uproar across the country and party lines against the administration’s inhumane immigration policies and rhetoric – from separating infants and toddlers from their parents to referring to immigrants as “animals” – is amplified only by the deafening silence in most of the Republican ranks.
There are some notable exceptions. Below, we excerpt conservative commentary from Washington Post syndicated columnist Michael Gerson and Gabriel Schoenfeld, former adviser to the 2012 Romney for President campaign. They have the moral clarity to eviscerate the administration for its abject cruelty and the GOP for its continued inaction.
Washington Post’s Michael Gerson: “The Trump era is a renaissance of half-witted intolerance”
Whatever else Trumpism may be, it is the systematic organization of resentment against outgroups. Trump’s record is rich in dehumanization. It was evident when he called Mexican migrants“criminals” and “rapists.” When he claimed legal mistreatment from a judge because “he’s a Mexican.” (Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel was born in Indiana.) When he proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” When he attacked Muslim Gold Star parents. When he sidestepped opportunities to criticize former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. When he referred to “very fine people” among the white-supremacist protesters in Charlottesville. When he expressed a preference for Norwegian immigrants above those from nonwhite “shithole countries.”
This is more than a disturbing pattern; it is an organizing political principle. And it has resulted in a series of radiating consequences.
First, it has given permission for the public expression of shameful sentiments.
Second, Trump’s attacks on outgroups have revealed the cowardice of a much broader faction within the GOP — those who know better but say little. Some Republican leaders (see House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin) have been willing to criticize specific instances of Trump’s prejudice. But few — and very few with a political future — have been willing to draw the obvious conclusion that Trump is prejudiced, or to publicly resist the trend toward prejudice among the GOP base.
Third, Trump’s attitudes toward diversity have moved the center of gravity of the whole GOP toward immigration restrictionism. In Republican Senate primaries such as the one in Indiana, candidates have engaged in a competition of who can be the most exclusionary. Mainstream attitudes toward refugees and legal immigration have become more xenophobic. Trump has not only given permission to those on the fringes; he has also changed the Republican mean to be more mean.
The good news about bias against outgroups is that it can be mitigated. And that, in fact, describes the high calling of a democratic leader — to set an aspiration of unity, to speak the language of empathy, and to emphasize our common goals, our common values and our common fate as a people. The GOP waits on leaders who will make these tasks their own.
Gabriel Schoenfield, writing in the Newark Advocate: “Trump-Sessions immigration policies rip children from parents and shred American values”:
Evil is afoot in America. Along our southern border, to deter illegal immigration, children — including infants — are being wrenched from their parents. Few things are crueler, but it is the declared policy of the U.S. government, undertaken in all our names.
We’ve witnessed McCarthyism, the World War II mass internment of Japanese Americans, the baseless imprisonment of thousands in the Red Scare at the close of World War I, and, over decades, the humiliations of Jim Crow.
Slavery, of course, was by far the worst betrayal.
I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ,” wrote Douglass. “I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”
Precisely the same hypocrisy is on display today in the era of Trump. Some prominent Christian conservatives have spoken out. “If law requires this, it must be changed. Sometimes it’s necessary to separate children from parents. But where it’s not necessary to do that, it’s necessary not to do it. Find another way,” implores the great Princeton scholar Robert George.
But for the moment, the hypocrites have the upper hand. From them comes deafening silence about the inhuman family destruction policy now being implemented.
“I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which everywhere surround me.” As children are torn from the arms of their parents, the words of Frederick Douglass should ring in our ears.