WASHINGTON, October 11, 2016 — Two truths: The Republican Party has a long and honorable history; and the 2016 election has been unprecedented.
The GOP selected as its nominee a man who has been rejected by the party’s most recent presidents and presidential candidates: George H.W. Bush, John McCain, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. Leading Republicans have announced they will not vote for him; many, including former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Senators John Thune, Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, Mike Lee, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, Mike Crapo, Rob Portman and Lisa Murkowski have called on him to step aside.
We could fill pages with the names of Republican members of Congress, governors and former cabinet officials who have rejected Donald Trump.
There may be some newspapers in the country that have endorsed Trump, but it is difficult to find them. The nation’s most prominent Republican and conservative publications, from the National Review, Weekly Standard and Wall Street Journal to the Arizona Republic, Manchester Union Leader, Richmond Times Dispatch, San Diego Union and the Cincinnati Enquirer have all rejected his candidacy.
Donald Trump, these papers point out, is not a conservative and never has been. He has no experience in government and seems not to understand the world. He boasts that he “knows more about ISIS than the generals,” has expressed favorable views of autocratic leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein, has questioned our commitment to NATO and has supported the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
He misstates the facts almost constantly. He says he opposed the Iraq war, while he is on tape supporting it. He says he saw thousands of Muslims hailing the 9/11 attacks, which many claim never happened. He accused Ted Cruz’s father of involvement in the Kennedy assassination.
He has personally insulted every one of his Republican primary opponents.
All of this happened before the release of tapes revealing Trump boasting of being a sexual predator. He says it is just “locker-room” banter and that we should return to a discussion of the “real issues” in the campaign. But the most important real issue in this campaign is the character of the candidate.
In an important and widely read editorial, the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, declared:
For 80 years, the Deseret News has not entered the troubled waters of presidential endorsements. We are neutral on matters of partisan politics. We do, however, feel a duty to speak clearly on issues that affect the well-being and morals of the nation. Accordingly, we call on Donald Trump to step down from his pursuit of the presidency. In democratic elections, ideas have consequences, leadership matters and character counts.
In the view of the Deseret News, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
The idea that women secretly welcome the unbridled and aggressive sexual advances of powerful men, has led to the mistreatment, sorrow and subjugation of countless women for too much of human history. The notion that strength emanates from harsh, divisive and unbending rhetorical flourish mistakenly equates leadership with craven intimidation. The belief that the party and the party platform matter more than the character of the candidate ignores the wisdom of the ages that ‘when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.’ (Proverbs 29:2) … It is disheartening to see otherwise decent individuals now attempting to defend Trump’s talk, dismissing it as mere ‘locker-room’ bravado. At the time, Trump was not a hormonal teenage athlete, but rather a 60-year-old husband of an expectant mother and the father of four children. America’s locker rooms deserve better.
When Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence, visited Salt Lake City and met with members of the editorial board of The Deseret News, he assured them that Trump was a “good man” who shared “the ideals and values of Utahns.”
Does he still believe this? Did he believe it then? Pence once said that he was a Christian first, then an American and only then a Republican. Is that still true?
The Deseret News editors concluded that,
Considering his (Trump’s) conduct and comportment, we don’t believe Trump holds the ideals and values of Utahns.
And what of evangelical leaders like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jr., James Dobson and others? They have become, it seems, political partisans who use religion rather than Christians who seek to imbue our society with moral and ethical values.
Republicans know that Donald Trump is not qualified to be president.
“There is nobody who holds any position of responsibility who in private conversations views Donald Trump as equipped mentally, morally and intellectually to be president of the United States,” says Steve Schmidt, a veteran Republican strategist. “But scores of Republican leaders have failed a fundamental test of moral courage and political leadership in not speaking the truth to the American people about what is so obvious.”
If the Democrats had not selected Hillary Clinton, a deeply flawed candidate, this election would already be over. Perhaps it already is. Republicans will have much to answer for in the future.
John “Mac” Stipanovich, a Republican activist in Florida, says,
Most Republican office holders gritted their teeth and endorsed and even embraced Donald Trump…All of those people were collaborators and all of those people will have to live with their collaboration for the rest of their lives.
Another prominent Republican, John Weaver, notes that,
They bought the ticket knowing there wouldn’t be enough life rafts once the ship hit the iceberg. We knew that no one who has gotten involved with Donald Trump in his personal life, in his professional life or in his political life has come out of that for the better. No one. So why any of our aspiring political leaders thought that they could survive being associated with him and grow from that is beyond me.
Stuart Stevens, who helped run Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, says that the Republican Party is in “a nightmare scenario.” He points out that,
Donald Trump has always been a ridiculous candidate for president, and the only thing that’s surprising is that it took this long for that ridiculousness to gel. It’s already hurt our country, it’s already hurt our politics. It’s just been a very destructive candidacy.
Almost any of Donald Trump’s primary opponents—John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio—would probably defeat Hillary Clinton. Instead, the Republican Party selected the one candidate even more flawed than Clinton, and totally unprepared for the office as well.
Can the Republican Party survive the Trump candidacy? Should it? Time will tell, as will the next two election cycles.