You cannot make this stuff up:

  • President Trump visits the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. However, he enthusiastically endorses Roy Moore, who argued about pre-Civil War America: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another. … Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”
  • Trump says he “studied, watched and admired” the career of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He nevertheless endorses Moore, who thinks we could do without the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery), 14th Amendment (ensuring due process and equal protection) and 15th Amendment (granting African American men the right to vote).
  • Trump says he is the greatest president ever for the LGBT community. He still endorses Moore, who has said “homosexual conduct should be illegal.”

We should not overlook, in the tumult over alleged sexual predation, the degree to which out-and-out racism and bigotry of all forms — and let’s not dress it up economic populism or xenophobia — have become normalized in the GOP. It’s not simply that the president and the Republican National Committee are supporting an accused sexual predator; they are supporting someone who admits to, boasts about and is unashamed to admit his contempt for racial equality.

This political and moral degradation has happened in stages. The collapse of decency and tolerance didn’t start with Moore. Trump proposed the Muslim ban (now on its third incarnation), and he turned the war against jihadists into a battle against Islam. (He declared in November 2015: “We are not loved by many Muslims.”) He labeled Mexicans murderers, attacked an American-born judge because of his Mexican heritage and systematically has gone after black athletes for behavior that no rational person would think to be worthy of consideration, let alone condemnation, by the president. He introduces moral equivalence between neo-Nazi and anti-neo-Nazi protesters. None of that is disqualifying for a president, Republicans conclude. They voted for him once, and a large majority would vote for him again. So when Moore comes along to declare that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress, he is greeted by a collective yawn among Republicans. His overtly racist comments about slavery fly under the radar.

The rest of the GOP tries to get by with “Well, I disagree with the president about Moore” or “Moore doesn’t represent the views of the GOP.” That doesn’t wash. They remain in the party, and most continue to support the president. Trump’s rhetoric and conduct aren’t disqualifying for Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) or virtually any elected Republican politician. Trump’s pre-election displays of racism didn’t disqualify him from their vantage point, and neither will anything he says in office. They’ll back him again in 2020, if Trump is on the ballot.

We have come to the point, whether it is Moore or the president himself, that overt racism is not a disqualifier for the GOP. “But Gorsuch!” or “But the tax bill!” don’t suffice. Once you’ve made a vote on a key GOP issue the only condition of support, you have no basis for banishing David Duke, Richard Spencer or any other avowed racist, anti-Semite, Islamophobe or homophobe from the party. That’s where the GOP is today, and that’s why, in our view and in the view of a segment of Republicans who are drifting (or running) away from the party, the GOP is irredeemable. Trump will be gone from the political scene at some point, but all those who defended and rationalized his conduct and utterances will remain.

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