House Speaker Paul Ryan has formally given Republican congressional candidates permission to cut ties with Donald Trump. Ryan said during a Monday morning House conference call that he will not defend or campaign with Trump, though he stopped short of unendorsing him.
Ryan’s decision comes in the wake of a video released last weekend that shows Trump joking about touching women without their consent in 2005. Even campaign surrogate Rudy Giuliani admitted that Trump was talking about sexual assault. The tape has led many Republicans to unendorse Trump and/or call for him to drop out of the race.
“He will spend his entire energy making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress,” a Ryan aide told the Washington Examiner. “He made clear to members that his decisions are being driven by what is best for his members, not himself. He is willing to endure political pressure to help protect our majority.”
For her part, Clinton was more than happy to point out that Ryan was not unendorsing Trump:
But there is increasing evidence that Ryan’s stance may be too little too late. The American people appear ready to punish the entire Republican Party for Trump’s misdeeds. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll came out this morning and it gives Democrats their highest lead on the generic congressional ballot in three years:
Meanwhile, Trump surrogates have begun to attack Republicans who have decided to unendorse. This could lead Trump’s fanatical supporters to refuse to vote for Republican congressional candidates, which would almost certainly cost Republicans the House.
The truth is, Paul Ryan and other Republicans should have thrown Donald Trump overboard a long time ago. Ryan himself has acknowledged that Trump is a racist, but that hasn’t stopped him from both endorsing Trump and speaking during the convention. This despite the fact that, as USA Today’s Gabriel Schoenfeld reminds his readers, Trump’s political brand consists of the denigration of the weak and powerless, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, threats of violence against political opponents, and praise of authoritarians.
After all that, wanting to get off the Trump train now, only when it’s going off the rails, seems cowardly at best. Clearly these Republicans didn’t have a problem with Trump’s heinous conduct when they thought he could win.
Forget about trying to win this election: it’s lost. The GOP will not only fail to win the White House, many of their congressional seats will be flipped too.
Republicans need to salvage their party in the long term by making a clean break from Trumpism. They should follow the lead of Iowa congressional candidate Dr. Christopher Peters, who released a statement unendorsing Trump today. Peters denounced the disgusting Trump video, but he also said this in his statement:
Trump’s behavior and temperament are only a part of the problem. He has repeatedly demonstrated a poor grasp of constitutionalism, civil rights, the rule of law, the role of diplomacy versus military interventionism, and even fundamental economics. I should have spoken out against him much earlier, and regret that I failed to do so.
Republicans like Paul Ryan should follow the lead of Dr. Peters. They need to repudiate Trump’s entire political brand of hate. That means also refusing to write in Trump apologist and “yes man” Mike Pence. Finally, they need to apologize to the country for supporting Trump in the first place.
The GOP needs to make a clean break. If they do that, the American people might forgive them before 2020.