This is our GOP, not Trump's

Donald Trump looks on as Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate introduces him before speaking at a fundraiser at the Cedar Rapids Country Club in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Donald Trump looks on as Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate introduces him before speaking at a fundraiser at the Cedar Rapids Country Club in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

It should go without saying that racism and bigotry are not conservative values. Sadly, it apparently doesn’t go without saying.

President Donald Trump has been the center of more than a few national outrages since he took office, but this time seems different. Trump’s response to last week’s demonstrations in Charlottesville is drawing ire from Republicans that we haven’t seen before.

Of course, it’s about time. As a lifelong Iowa Republican, I’ve been dumbfounded, discouraged and ashamed at the extent to which my fellow Republicans have failed to reject the anti-American rhetoric of Trump and his supporters.

The ultimate political fallout of the Charlottesville demonstrations remains to be seen, but so far, GOP leaders seem to be adamantly opposed to any other Republican challenging Trump in the party’s 2020 primary. That raises an important question — how far must Trump fall before conservatives can consider a different standard-bearer?

Survey data suggests most Republicans are standing by Trump. A poll published this week by Marist College pegged Trump’s approval among Republicans at 79 percent.

Sen. Ben Sasse is one national figure reportedly flirting with challenging Trump. Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann has suggested Sasse, a U.S. senator from Nebraska, isn’t welcome in our state.

It’s frustrating to see conservatives who understand the value of competition in free market economics, but can’t see how the same principles apply to politics.


Competition is the foundation of our political heritage: Our Founding Fathers were anti-establishment radicals who conceived a new political system; 163 years ago, the Republican Party was a new third-party; and our beloved President Ronald Reagan’s national debut was a primary against Republican incumbent President Gerald Ford.

Imagine if today’s Republican elites had been around to counsel George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Reagan in those historic moments. Thank goodness, they weren’t.

Too many Republicans are buying into a false dichotomy manufactured by the media and political insiders — that Americans must choose either Trumpism or leftism. The Charlottesville outrage has made that dynamic clearer, according to conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart, one of the few influential Iowa Republicans to vocally oppose Trump in 2016.

“It’s like we’re trying to make a binary choice between neo-Nazis and Marxists. I choose neither,” Vander Hart told me this week. “ ... I’m done rubber-stamping the Republican Party just because they have an R by their names. If they’re not standing for our principles and not doing a good job of governing, they can’t expect that I’m going to support them.”

Over the past week, I’ve seen people I respect say that anyone who participates in Republican politics is responsible in part for the ugly nationalist outbursts Americans have witnessed. Several friends have asked me how I can stick with the party of Trump.

But I was a Republican before Trump — he last switched over in 2012. And I’ll be a Republican long after Trump’s political life is over. This is our party, not his.

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