Suddenly, Republican leaders are discovering that they’ve hitched their wagon to a candidate who may lead their party over a cliff in November. And they’re shocked to learn that he doesn’t care what they say and isn’t about to take their advice.
How they can be surprised at this late stage of the game? Donald Trump’s racism, ignorance and egomania have been evident from the day he declared his candidacy last summer with a blast at Mexican “rapists” and said Muslims should be banned from entering the country. They thought it was a joke, but now the joke’s on them.
The leaders of the party have been happy enough for years to use the rants of right-wing radio and the likes of Rush Limbaugh for their own political benefit while pretending to stay above the fray. Now the chickens have come home to roost. Mr. Trump used the same sort of language and scorched-earth tactics that appealed to radio audiences to become the presumptive presidential nominee. He’s not about to discard the playbook that got him this far.
This has party leaders in a dither, as evident in the latest squabble over his remarks about a judge hearing a civil case over the enterprise called Trump University. Mr. Trump said Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born to Mexican immigrants in Indiana, has an “absolute conflict” and should recuse himself from the case because of his Mexican heritage.
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Baloney. If Mr. Trump were serious, he would have done what all litigants do when they think they’re being treated unfairly in court: file a motion of recusal. His failure to do so and to instead tear into the judge verbally are the tactics of a demagogue. It says a lot about his lack of respect for the rule of law, his egomania and his wanton disregard for civil discourse.
Republican leaders say they’re appalled. But we wonder whether they are really condemning him for his moral failure or simply because it’s bad politics? Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader from Kentucky, distanced himself from those comments, but went on to admit that he is “concerned about the Hispanic vote” for Republicans. “I think it’s a big mistake for our party to write off Latino Americans. They’re an important part of our country.”
Sen. McConnell and other Republicans leaders miss the point if they think this is bad just because it might alienate an important voting bloc that the party needs to capture the White House. It’s bad — disgusting and venomous — because it smacks of racism and disrespect for the law. It erodes civil discourse and public trust in our institutions. It suggests that Mr. Trump doesn’t know beans about the Constitution, the rule of law or the separation of powers.
And doesn’t care.
It’s not just Mexicans he doesn’t like. It’s women, it’s journalists, it’s African Americans, anyone who doesn’t appreciate his awesome wonderfulness. Especially Muslims. He said on Face the Nation that “it’s possible” that a Muslim judge would also treat him unfairly because of the judge’s religion.
Will he back down now that leading Republicans have warned him to change course? Ha! On Monday, he told followers to intensify attacks on Judge Curiel and journalists.
This is a moment of truth for Republican leaders. If they endorse Mr. Trump, as most have, they endorse his views. And if they don’t take a stronger stand against him and let him take the party over the cliff, they can’t say they didn’t see it coming.