Praise is due to the four Republicans who joined Democrats in voting for Monday’s House resolution which "strongly condemns President Donald Trump's racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
The impetus for this resolution, of course, was Trump’s call for four progressive women of color—the so-called “Squad”—to “go back” to the countries “from which they came."
Conservatives might not agree with The Squad’s politics, but everyone should agree that Trump’s words crossed a line.
OK, maybe everyone should agree, but only a handful of elected Republicans did agree—at least, publicly. The profiles in courage belong to Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, and Will Hurd of Texas. (That’s not counting Michigan’s Justin Amash, who left the GOP on July 4 of this year and also voted for the resolution).
By voting to condemn a president of their own political party, the four demonstrated bravery, decency, and intellectual honesty.
While many Americans will appreciate this willingness to stand athwart Trumpism, yelling “stop!” I suspect not everyone will fully appreciate this sacrifice. It is good to be reminded that it’s not so easy to stand against one’s own party. Just a few months ago. Democrats had the chance to issue a clear resolution condemning Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic rhetoric. That resolution passed only after it was revised and weakened to the point of being meaningless. It’s easy to say the other guys (or ladies) should do the right thing. It’s much tougher when it’s your party.
This is not to change the subject from Trump’s indefensible comments. Some on the right engaged in a semantics debate over whether or not his words fit some textbook definition of “racism,” but his comments were indefensible no matter what label you put on them. The correct vote was to support the resolution condemning his “racist comments that have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
Should we be sad that only four Republicans agree with that, or happy that there are four brave Republicans willing to take a stand? I’m a glass-is-half-full type of guy. This is partly because I’ve have been conditioned for low expectations of Republicans, but there’s more.
Standing up to Donald Trump, for Republicans, at least, is a demonstrably thankless endeavor. It’s hard to think of an example where it ended terribly well, and there are lots of examples where it ended badly (see Jeff Flake and Bob Corker). What does seem to work is acquiescing. Just ask Lindsey Graham.
This is because the rank-and-file Republican base is with him. It’s hard to ask elected Republicans to defy their constituents—their voters—which is precisely what we consistently do when we ask them to stand up to Trump. Again, it’s easy to say that leaders ought to do the right thing. In practice, though, human nature is to take the easy way out.
I realize Tuesday’s vote doesn’t change much. Just as their votes were a necessary, but not sufficient, repudiation of their party’s president, so is this column praising the Republicans who cast those votes. Because, come tomorrow, there very well may be reprisals.
But while it might be only a symbolic sign of a respectable conservative remnant, these leaders provide a glimmer of hope that someday the party of Lincoln and Reagan will once again rekindle. Once the light is fully extinguished, it is harder to imagine a rebirth. For today, at least, I’d rather light a candle than curse the darkness.