Will Trump’s racism prove to be a fatal crisis for Republicans?

The House of Representatives, in an historic vote, censured Donald Trump for his racist tweets, 240-187. A mere four Republicans, plus a former one, mustered the integrity to vote with the entire Democratic caucus in favor of the resolution.

The Republican Party has been so co-opted by Trump that it cannot bring itself to call out racism, even when it is the President of the United States who is manifesting it. Instead Republicans attack the victims of those repulsive comments as communists, as Lindsey Graham shamefully did, or claim procedural violations, or simply deny that the President is a racist, as Mitch McConnell did. Well, Mr. Majority Leader, denying the obvious is no denial. Trump has a long history of racist words and deeds that the New York Times, for one, has compiled in nauseating detail.

McConnell knows all that, of course. But, in Trumpworld, to which McConnell has consigned himself so completely, for reasons he alone knows, you never admit to anything – ANYTHING. You turn the charge 180 degrees, as Trump does in his preposterous claim that “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” or “I am the least racist person you will ever meet.” When pressed by a reporter about his remarks drawing enthusiastic endorsement by white nationalists, Trump countered with “lots of people agree with me,” as though that settled the matter. Someone should have shouted out “lots of racists.”

In further comments, Trump let slip two other pointers to his racism. He condemned the four Congressional women of color for not loving “our country.” Not “this country,” but “our country.” He was addressing his base, as he almost always does. Immigrants, or those mistaken as such, have no claim on this country ever becoming theirs. “This land is our land” simply applies to whites.

And he went on to say, that if “the Squad” didn’t like it here, they should leave. There is no place for dissent in Trump’s America. Patriotism in America is confined to supporters of Trump. All others, especially those of color, take warning.

Whether this latest outrage by Trump moves the needle of public opinion remains to be seen. I have little hope that it will. Trump supporters stopped thinking a long time ago. The result is pathological partisanship, in which party has become the absolute be-all and end-all, in large part because Trump has come to embody that party.

As a number of observers have pointed out, the MAGA movement is really a MAWA movement: make American white again!” To admit that Trump is a racist is to indict themselves. That they can never do. The Baltimore Orioles have a better chance of winning this year’s World Series than does a significant portion of Trump’s lemmings have of seeing the dangerous path they are on and turning around before they hit the cliffs.

This nation has been in crisis ever since Donald Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 election. That crisis has only grown worse over the past two and a half years, as the evidence has mounted of the president’s unfitness for office, of his egregious conflicts of interest, of the unprecedented corruption of his administration, of the cruel inhumanity of its immigrant policies, of the collusion with a hostile power during the 2016 campaign, of the obstruction of attempts to uncover the history of that collusion, and now, of his racism. The racism, in itself, sadly is no disqualifier for office, but it certainly is another powerful indicator of his unfitness, and of the overwhelming need to remove him as quickly as possible.

Current Republicans tend, like Trump, to care little about history, especially about their own past, which in many ways contradicts much of what they have come to stand for under Trump’s domination. But they would do well to refresh their memories about the fate of the Whigs, their immediate predecessors in our two-party system. The Whigs’ failure to deal with the slavery crisis in the 1850s proved, in a stunningly brief span, fatal for them as a party. Donald Trump is the Republicans’ crisis today. Their dealing with it to date does not bode well for their own survival.

Robert Emmett Curran of Richmond is professor of history emeritus at Georgetown University.