The Republican Party is at a crossroads and, increasingly, the road less traveled is the one marked by moderation, civility and clear-headed leadership.
Pessimism, paranoia and fear should be met head on, not pandered to, but instead of reviving a “Morning in America,” the party of Ronald Reagan tempts the twilight.
It’s happening nationally and locally, and Republicans who think the bloviating with blow itself out are in denial. A party that once stood for free trade, a strong economy and wise budgeting now seems more concerned with fringe issues — real or imagined — such as the loss of sovereignty and the “hordes” of immigrants and refugees from the “wrong” religion.
In the past, the bullying, ill-informed comments of someone like GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump would be treated as radioactive gaffes. Now, he doubles down, knowing his fellow Republicans won’t respond because they don’t want to antagonize his angry constituency.
But silence is a mistake. Waiting for Trump to go into remission is unwise. Espousing watered down versions of his views — Trump lite — is worse.
Trump’s candidacy is what you get when his bombastic claims go unchallenged, and the party line says government and other institutions that hold society together cannot be trusted.
Routine budgeting becomes a recurring crisis. Immigration reform becomes a fantastical push to build an impenetrable fence while rounding up 11 million people. Taking in refugees, an act that’s produced no instances of domestic terrorism, becomes an exercise in religion-bashing and fear-mongering.
The increasing denigration of Islam is an affront to American values. Trump touts forced registration of Muslims and the possible closure of mosques. He tells vile, bogus stories to stoke fears — and he goes up in the polls.
His popularity gives cover to other unhinged views, such as those of Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, who is calling for a special session of the Idaho Legislature to deal with the “invasion” of Muslim refugees.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, recently posted a false claim on Facebook that President Obama “wants to import 1.5 million Muslims into the U.S.” Rather than confirm it, he calls it “absolute madness!” And goes on to say, “Islam is incompatible with western civilization!” Then he advises people to arm themselves.
Republican colleagues of Scott and Rodne have responded to this hysteria with silence or, in the case of the Washington State Republican Party, criticism of Gov. Jay Inslee for supporting acceptance of Syrian refugees. Their letter to Inslee suggests that the Paris attacks prove the refugees are a danger, though no Syrians have yet been identified as perpetrators.
Thoughtful Republicans need to ask themselves whether the unchecked hysteria and ignorance of Trump, Scott and Rodne lead down the road to national and state leadership, or dissolution.
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