Like many individuals, the right-wing think tanks, policy groups and media have put principle, truth and decency aside either to actively support Trump or turn a blind eye toward his behavior. Well, they want judges and tax cuts. Well, they are party men and women. Well, you cannot let the left win. It takes the presence of some principled Republicans to highlight how specious is this line of reasoning and how to maintain one’s integrity.
The Post reported this week: “Jennifer Horn was pushed right up to a line she swore she would never cross. Her GOP organization, where she sat on the board for several years, had just endorsed President Trump for reelection, something she says she would never do herself. ... Horn sent a letter to the chair and vice chair of the Log Cabin Republicans, a national LGBTQ organization, on Monday after the group announced its endorsement of Trump.”
I spoke to Horn by phone on Wednesday afternoon. She stressed that when she was recruited to the Log Cabin Republicans’ board, she was “proud to join an independent group” that pursued equality, fairness and inclusion. “An endorsement was completely separated” from that ethos, she believes, although she expresses “a tremendous amount of respect” for board members, some of whom helped founded the group and have pursued gay marriage and gay rights efforts for decades. “This is not a president for inclusion, for equality for all,” she tells me. “Donald Trump is not a conservative, not a Republican and not a good person.”
She explains that the board went through a process to consider an endorsement. The decision was not unanimous, with Horn and a group of dissenters opposing and voting against the endorsement.
She and another source familiar with the Log Cabin Republicans tell me that at least three members of the board have quit in recent months, including the first female board member, Sarah Longwell, a prominent NeverTrump voice who heads several organizations, including Republicans for the Rule of Law.
One can take the charitable view that perhaps for people now in their 70s, having a Republican president that they can work with and who doesn’t condemn them outright is an accomplishment. The less charitable explanation is that these people have been blinded by access to power and accommodated themselves to a president who threw transgender Americans out of the military, gave contractors permission to discriminate against LGBTQ employees based on their professed religious beliefs, appointed virulently anti-gay judges and openly peddles bigotry.
I asked Horn whether she has been surprised by the lack of spine throughout the GOP. “I have been surprised at the degree to which otherwise good and responsible Republicans" have capitulated, she says. She offers that there are people who might be motivated by an issue such as tax cuts, but there are plenty of people whose driving motivation is “holding onto power.” She concedes that Trump has been “very effective in bullying the party.”
And yet people do manage to object or leave the party, as Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) did; denounce Trump’s language, as former Ohio governor John Kasich has done for years; leave groups that knuckled under to Trump; or speak out to denounce Trump from the floor of the Senate.
Horn says that in 2008, when she first entered politics to run for Congress, she had a rule of thumb: “I have a very clear memory of telling my husband. . . I would not do or say anything I could not defend to our children.” In the case of Trump, Horn couldn’t possibly explain why she was part of a reelection effort.
Cowardice is prevalent in the Republican Party for lots of reasons — including an insatiable desire to remain in office, a tribal mentality, a hysterical conviction that the alternative to Trump is national doom and an unusual ability for self-delusion. Nevertheless, the presence of people such as Amash, Longwell, Horn and some others is a reminder that we always have a choice. So long as there are people choosing to do the right thing, the Trump appeasers are reminded of their own lack of decency, principle and honor. No wonder they are so angry all the time.
And no wonder Trump so loathed the late senator John McCain, who was the epitome of principled defiance. If a few of these Republicans started standing up to him, there’d be no end to it, right?