Wisconsin GOP leaders must disavow Trump

By Bill Kaplan

The Republican Party, founded in Ripon, is "going the way of the Whigs." The 19th century Whig Party was torn asunder over the expansion of slavery. Today the party of Lincoln is rupturing as Donald Trump completes the makeover of the GOP into a party espousing authoritarianism, racism and scapegoating. Some commentary: 

• The Washington Post editorialized: Speaker Paul "Ryan .... and other Republican leaders ought to make clear that they will not 'get along' with a man (Trump) who, from the beginning of his campaign, has profited from voter prejudice and hatred. They should reject his authoritarian assault on American democracy";

• Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker opined: "Should Trump become the nominee, more reasoned minds in the GOP might do well to abandon it altogether. The death of this party - of know-nothing ugliness and outright fascist rhetoric - might be a blessing .... before a resurrection of the party of limited government and individual liberty";

• Conservative columnist George Will stepped up to the plate: "We are about to learn much about Republican officeholders who are now deciding whether to come to terms with Trump, and with the shattering of their party as a vessel of conservativism. Trump's collaborators....will find that nothing will redeem the reputations they will ruin by placing their opportunism in the service of his (Trump's) demagogic cynicism and anti-constitutional authoritarianism". However, a handful of national GOP leaders have renounced Trump. Contrast with their Wisconsin counterparts:

• Bill Brock, former chair, Republican National Committee (RNC), wrote: "In a way, I am just as concerned about the destructive tone of the Trump campaign as I am about its demagogic content". But Reince Priebus, current RNC chair, perseverates: "Yes, we will support the nominee";

• Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker proclaimed, with no hesitation: "I'm not going to vote for him (Trump) in November," while Gov. Scott Walker disingenuously punted: "I signed a pledge - and I'm a person of my word - that said .... I wasn't going to support someone other than the nominee. The question will be what role - if any - I play";

• Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse declared: "I signed up for the party of Abraham Lincoln, not the party of David Duke (KKK), Donald Trump .... I can't support Donald Trump." However, Sen. Ron Johnson showed his true mettle, saying: "Let the best person win and then I'll support whoever that person is";

• Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell stood tall: "My love for our country eclipses my loyalty to our party". Rigell went on to say he would "not support" Trump. But Speaker Paul Ryan, who denounces Trump's racism, continues incoherently to say: "I plan to support the nominee."

History will not be kind to Priebus, Walker, Johnson and Ryan for their enabling the presidential candidacy of a fascist. Time to disavow Trump. Now.

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009

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