It's been fascinating to watch the Republican Party establishment react to Donald Trump's bizarre, continued rants about how he couldn't get a fair trial from Judge Ganzalo Curiel as a result of Trump's own racist statements. And Trump has since added that he didn't think he could likely get a fair trial from a Muslim judge either -- also because of Trump's own racist statements. And a Trump spokesman has said that the candidate likely may not be able to get a fair trial from a female judge because....well, you know. Because of Trump's sexism.
We may be nearing the point where it may be that Donald Trump could feel that he can't get a fair trial from anyone other than a judge affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.
Of course, Donald's Trump's position on judges is pathetically ignorant in addition to being racist, as well as idiotic. In fact, in regards to Judge Curiel specifically it shows how woefully uninformed Donald Trump (R-Trump Tower) is given how widely-praised the jurist is when he was a prosecutor and took on the Mexican cartel.
But all that's beside the point, massively important as it is. The point is how the Republican Party establishment is reacting in horror. To their credit, many have been slamming their party's nominee for the new statements, to the point of deriding them as racist. Even Speaker Paul Ryan has walked back his initial bland criticism and became more blunt. And very importantly, few have said that their candidate's racism hasn't affected their decision to vote for him, which is a problem they'll have to deal with. Because apparently having a racist president is still just peachy with them.
Still, Sen. Lindsay Graham, who has been perhaps the most blunt ranking-Republican in his criticism of Donald Trump for a long while (something that Trump didn't help by his withering ridicule of the senator), has been so outspoken that he's given Republican an "out" for cutting ties with their party's nominee.
“There are a lot of people who want to be loyal to the Republican Party, including me,” he said. “But there’ll come a point in time where we’re gonna have to understand that it’s not just about the 2016 race, it’s about the future of the party and I would like to support our nominee. I just can’t.”
“Every person in the Republican Party’s got to make their own decision,” Graham continued. “I am going to focus on the House and Senate. I am going to focus on helping my colleagues in the House and Senate ‘cause I can do that enthusiastically.”
In many ways, it's a noble statement by Sen. Graham, and I applaud him. I'd have preferred that he said it's not merely about the future of the party, but also about the future of the country, but that's Sen. Graham. And it's also a good strategy for him.
It's also a problematic one, for several reasons. The first is that cutting ties with Trump risks offending the base of the party -- though it's probably a risk that should be taken because there's more upside to it, and can attract undecided independent voters. But secondly, the bigger problem is that it avoids the larger reality.
And that larger reality is -- the candidates will have to explain why they supported and endorsed Donald Trump in the first place.
Here's the thing. Donald's Trump's racist statements about the heritage of the judge (who is an American citizen born in Indiana, it's always worth repeating...) did not come out of the blue. This isn't his first racist statement. It's simply the latest in a massively long string of racist statements on which he has based his campaign. It should have shocked no one. It should have surprised no one. Donald Trump's racist, sexist, misogynistic statements about Muslims, Hispanics, Blacks (you have to love, "Look at my African-American over there" the other day) and
women is a given. A long-term given. So any Republican candidate withdrawing his support from Donald Trump over the presidential nominee's latest racist rant will have to defend why he ever gave that support despite all the other racist remarks.
Here's the problem in a specific -- Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois is in a tough fight for re-election against Tammy Baldwin, who was ahead of the incumbent in the last poll I saw. Just the other day, Mr. Kirk was asked about Trump and replied, "I cannot support him because of what he said about the judge. That was too racist and bigoted for me." And he followed up by adding, "That was the big straw for me."
And so, the problem: If this was the "big straw," then what were all the little straws that Mark Kirk had previously been okay with? Are racist straws all right if they're just daily, normal ones? And "Too racist"?? If this was "too racist" for Mark Kirk, why wasn't he bothered by all the other racist comments that apparently weren't "too racist" for his taste but were just racist enough to be acceptable. And Mr. Kirk is actually a moderate Republican on social issues. Imagine all the others...
And therein glares the problem.
This is Donald Trump. This is who he is, and who he's been from the beginning. There is no surprise here. And all the Republicans who've been rallying around him now that this racist, misogynist, sexist, lying, egomaniacal bully became the GOP's official nominee have to live with their support, even while they try to explain away why they were okay with it before.
Running away from their past support might well save their soul and some GOP careers. But in the end, when you help promote the village idiot to captain of the ship, the boat with you on it is going to take on a lot of water and slowly sink.
And in the end, it's really hard to run away from an 800-pound gorilla when you've hoisted it on your back.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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