Just when I feared there was no decency left in the Republican Party, a few brave souls emerged to stand on principle against Donald Trump, the presumptive presidential nominee. Former presidents George H.W. Bush (41) and George W. Bush (43) will neither attend the party’s convention in July nor make an endorsement in the campaign. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, won’t be at the Cleveland convention, either. And when asked whether he supported Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told CNN on Thursday, “I’m just not ready to do that at this point.”
Ryan told CNN that Trump must unify the party, and that that burden falls squarely on him. “We don’t always nominate a Lincoln or a Reagan every four years,” Ryan said, “but we hope that our nominee aspires to be Lincoln- or Reagan-esque — that that person advances the principles of our party and appeals to a wide, vast majority of Americans.” According to CNN, Ryan said that Trump must “run a campaign that will allow Americans to have something that they’re proud to support and proud to be a part of.”
The reasons for Ryan’s pronouncement are clear. Leave aside the fact that Trump isn’t the dyed-in-the-wool conservative that Ryan would like as the nominee. The big problem is that Trump knocked out 17 rivals by riding the wave of racism, xenophobia, misogyny and disdain for the disabled and others that became the hallmark of his campaign and rallies. You’ll also recall Romney’s 20-minute takedown of Trump in March that laid out the case against the Big Apple billionaire. But it came too late to halt his advance on the nomination. And as we have seen by the reaction to Trump’s presumptive status, being appalled by Trump’s rhetoric and conduct on the campaign trail is not a partisan issue. It is an American one.
As my colleague Charles Lane wisely pointed out in his column on Thursday, “The pro-Trump segment of the American electorate has … abdicated a basic duty of a democratic citizenry: to hold a candidate accountable for his or her ideas.” And as a Post editorial on Thursday noted, that pro-Trump segment of the electorate is just 4.7 percent of eligible voters in the entire United States. This country is better than what Trump has reflected back at it for the past 11 months. That some Republicans are finally coming forward to take a stand against the man who has destroyed their party is validation of that sentiment.
My hope is that Ryan will continue to withhold his support of the Republican nominee. There is no amount of pivoting, white-washing or attention-diverting make-believe that can undo the damage Trump has done to the GOP and American political discourse.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj