If you want to know why Republican calls for unity and civility ring hollow with many Americans, look no further than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Questioned by reporters in Frankfort this week, McConnell said the “whole tone in the country right now needs to be ratcheted down.”
“If there is such a thing as a hate crime, we saw it at Kroger and we saw it in the synagogue again in Pittsburgh,” McConnell said, referring to attacks by bigots that killed two black people in a Louisville grocery and 11 Jewish people at worship.
But when a reporter asked McConnell if Trump has contributed to that tone in the country, he walked away without answering.
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Trump’s comments on Twitter and at campaign rallies across the country are a litany of attacks against immigrants, minorities, women and anyone, Democrat or Republican, who dares challenge him.
This president lies constantly and blatantly, uses his office to enrich himself and his family, makes wild claims with no basis in fact and calls journalists who report about it “enemies of the people.”
In his latest distraction, Trump said he plans to issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants. It is something he has no power to do, thanks to the Constitution’s 14th Amendment and a century of Supreme Court precedent. But comments like that fire up his base — and further divide the country.
Trump’s behavior is like that of no other American president — and every authoritarian dictator. Anyone who doesn’t see the connection between Trump’s rhetoric and the rise in right-wing hate crimes is either blind or in denial.
Beginning with Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” in the 1960s, Republicans have welcomed bigots and other fringe elements into their fold, naively thinking they could control them. Trump was the inevitable result.
When Trump began his political rise in 2015, there was a small and feeble “never Trump” movement among GOP leaders. After he was nominated and elected, it evaporated. Trump’s Republican critics have either fallen in line, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, or been forced into retirement, such as Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Today’s Republican Party is little more than a personality cult. McConnell and his colleagues are afraid to call out Trump, whose unpresidential and often un-American words and deeds get worse by the day.
Not only do Republican politicians ignore Trump’s outrageous behavior, they go along with policies such as trade tariffs that have been neither Republican nor conservative. What are the GOP’s core values now? Whatever Trump says today, which may be different tomorrow.
McConnell’s core value has always been power. His wealthy donors want tax cuts and conservative judges to protect their interests, and he won’t stand up to Trump as long as the president helps deliver for him.
The same goes for other GOP members of Congress. None in Kentucky’s delegation has had the guts to call out Trump’s behavior in any meaningful way. Rep. Andy Barr even brought the president to Richmond last week to campaign for him in his tight race with Democratic challenger Amy McGrath.
There are many issues in this mid-term election, but none is more important than the need to elect members of Congress who will rein in this unhinged president and hold him accountable. That means electing Democrats, because Republicans have shown they are incapable of doing it.