Forget Donald Trump, Republicans. Save the GOP for the sake of your party’s future

The longer Republicans remain silent on how President Trump is abusing the Republican Party, the more it will sound like the silence of the lambs.

USA TODAY’s Editorial Board

It has long been said that Republicans ought to put country over party and stop defending the indefensible behavior of President Donald Trump.

For the most part, this argument has fallen on deaf ears for the obvious reason that Trump still enjoys the support of the very same rank-and-file voters whom Republican lawmakers face in primary elections.

A better argument might be that Republicans need to stand up to Trump — for the sake of their party’s future.

GOP abandoning the high ground 

Some GOP lawmakers have, to their credit, challenged the president on foreign policy issues such as Russian sanctions and Trump’s hasty, ill-conceived decision to withdraw from Syria. But in repeatedly turning a blind eye to his abuses of office, the GOP is branding itself as bankrupt of principle and interested only in clinging to power.

More ominously, the GOP is turning independent voters against it and abandoning positions — such as support for law and order, fiscal responsibility, science, free trade, ethics in government and standing up to dictators abroad — that long formed its political high ground.

For much of Trump’s first 1,000 days in office, a party that supposedly values the rule of law sat by as the president attacked prosecutors and judges who dared to question his actions. More recently, nearly all of its ostrich-like officeholders have put their heads in the sand as Trump used the power and prestige of the United States to pressure Ukraine to investigate a potential general election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. 

This is the same party that tried to politicize a tragedy at a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 to make it look like a Hillary Clinton scandal. It is also the party that impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998 after he had an affair with a former White House intern. As the chart below shows, many of the same Republicans who were quick to impeach or convict then are now drooling poodles on Trump’s lap.

What does Republican Party stand for?

If the GOP doesn’t recover its values, it will be hard to take the party seriously when it claims that a Democrat is doing something wrong. Its candidates, moreover, will struggle to articulate what their party stands for:

Family values? Not when the president brags of grabbing women and pays hush money to a porn star.

The rule of law and constitutional governance? Not when the president misuses his powers for political gain.

Limited government? Not when the president uses levers of power to go after the head of Amazon, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the state of California, the auto industry, America’s closest allies and many others — simply because they refuse to carry his water.

Concern for conflicts of interest? Not when the president selects one his own resorts to host the summit of the Group of Seven major industrial nations. (One can only imagine how Republican politicians and conservative media outlets would have reacted if a Democratic president had done the same.)

To be sure, Republican lawmakers are politicians who can’t ignore their constituents. But they are also the stewards of the GOP’s future who shouldn’t be cowering in fear of nasty tweets. 

How is it going to help conservatives get elected if their party has offended large swaths of the electorate? How is toleration for self-dealing and misuse of power going to be a selling point?

As they contemplate these questions, they might actually find that doing the right thing turns out to be the politically expedient thing.


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