Aug. 1, 2016 – Donald Trump’s ongoing attacks against the Khan family are the latest, and perhaps most heartless, example of his campaign’s sustained attempt to stoke racial and religious animosity. Trump is, quite simply, running a campaign that is antithetical to who we are as a country. Meanwhile, in sharp contrast, the Khan family embody and are speaking up for a vision of America that is much truer to our identity as a pluralistic democracy where contribution and character matter more than birthplace and background.
Some commentators have depicted the Khan firestorm as a self-inflicted error that is a distraction from his core message related to change and jobs. This analysis misses the mark: Trump’s racial fear mongering and his cynical attempts to fan the flames of white grievance and resentment are the central premise of Trump’s entire campaign. As Republican strategist Rick Wilson stated of Trump’s embrace of racial and religiously-charged language, policy, and controversy: “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature” of his campaign.
While Trump’s cruelty and racially-loaded animosity are the latest reminders that he is unfit for office, his bigotry should not come as a surprise. On day one of his campaign he called Mexicans “rapists” and said “they’re bring drugs, they’re bringing crime.” Later, with respect to Islam, he said “there’s an unbelievable hatred of us.” He attacked an Indiana-born judge because of his Mexican heritage. These statements are fully consistent with his policy stances –in favor of deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, banning all Muslims, revoking the citizenship of the U.S.-born children of immigrants, using torture in the interrogation of terrorism suspects, and killing family members of terrorists. And let’s not forget that he became popular in the GOP by questioning the President’s birthplace and legitimacy.
What continues to be surprising is the way that Trump’s fellow Republicans are putting party over patriotism. The pattern is familiar: Trump attacks some individual or group he’s determined to “other;” after hoping the latest insult will blow over, some Republicans issue statements condemning the latest outrage; but, with few exceptions, none rescind their support for Trump’s candidacy. Is a man who attacks a Gold Star family because they are Muslim really fit to be our nation’s Commander in Chief? With their continuing support of Trump, most elected Republicans have said yes.
This is a moment of truth for every Republican politician who stands with Donald Trump. If you do not rescind your support now, you will be defined for the rest of your life as someone who chose party over patriotism. Donald Trump has revealed himself for more than a year as a man unfit for our nation’s highest office. He has consistently peddled a morally bankrupt and dangerous vision of America. While the Khans represent the best of America, Trump represents the worst of America. What more do Trump’s fellow Republicans need to hear from their nominee that would get them to rescind their support? As Army lawyer Joseph Welch famously said to Senator Joseph McCarthy, ‘Have you no sense of decency?’
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Observers across the political spectrum are also condemning Trump but turning their focus to his Republican enablers. For example:
Former Reagan and Bush staffer and conservative author Peter Wehner tweeted, “Memo to Trump supporters: He’s a man of sadistic cruelty. With him there’s no bottom. Now go ahead & defend him.”
Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne writes, “Republican politicians face a choice. They can accept Hillary Clinton’s invitation to abandon Donald Trump and prevent a redefinition of their party as a haven for bigotry. Or they can prop Trump up, try to maximize his vote — and thereby tarnish themselves for a generation.”
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post writes, “If Republicans don’t break off their support for Trump’s candidacy now, they run the risk of having no choice but to do so after Trump sinks even further into wretchedness and depravity, to a point of true no return.”
Sargent then quotes former Jeb Bush advisor and Republican strategist Tim Miller, who states, “Trump is inevitably going to get worse, not better, as his poll numbers get worse … If Republicans are going to have to disavow Trump eventually because of how bad his behavior has gotten, it is incumbent on them to get the political benefit of doing it when it’s a principled stand, rather than waiting until they are backed into a corner and there’s no other choice.”