By Christine Todd Whitman
December 16, 2015
Every few generations a political party has to define itself. Now is that moment for the Republican Party. Until recently the GOP has been seen in Washington as the “party of no.” Now it is being defined as the party of extreme. While the U.S. may be yearning for definitive leadership from a president, the use of hate and fear tactics by so many of the GOP presidential candidates is not the answer.
It is no longer a stretch to compare Donald Trump, and some of the other current Republican candidates for president, to some of the worst dictators in history. Trump especially is employing the kind of hateful rhetoric and exploiting the insecurities of this nation, in much the same way that allowed Hitler and Mussolini to rise to power in the lead-up to World War II. The parallels are chilling. In pre-WWII Germany, the economy was in ruins, people were scared, and they wanted someone to blame. Today we find ourselves with a nation of people who feel under attack both physically and economically and are fearful. The middle class has never fully recovered economically from the Great Recession. Income disparity is growing, but demonizing with a broad-brush all “immigrants,” forgetting that nearly all of our ancestors were exactly that at one point in the past 400 years, is both dangerous and contrary to all this nation stands for. After Paris and San Bernardino, attacking Muslims, the vast majority of whom are peaceful adherents to their faith, has become fashionable.
Language shapes behavior. Hateful language gives susceptible people permission to act on their fears. Preying on the marginalized who are scared of the future is the time-honored tactic of bullies and dictators. When times are difficult, people always look for someone to blame: It is easy to pick out a target. Today it is Muslims, but tomorrow it could be anyone. Hatred knows no bounds. As a Republican, I am particularly concerned by the rise of hate rhetoric within our party. We cannot ignore it, and we can no longer dismiss it as a passing fluke. The damage it is inflicting and the behavior it is inciting can last for years to come.
This is not to say that our federal government doesn’t need to do more to ensure that our intelligence agencies share information and that our immigration policies are updated to face new threats. But this is the job of government and not vigilantes.
Let me be very clear: This is not the Republican Party, but this is how we are being defined right now. Ours is the party that fought to end slavery and desegregate the White House and public schools. Our 150-year history of fighting for justice and economic opportunity for all Americans hangs in the balance. We not only risk compromising the future of the Republican Party, but our proud history as well. We need a candidate who will take the lead in moving the Republican Party back toward its traditional, philosophical roots of respect for and belief in the individual, fiscal responsibility, pragmatic and realistic foreign policy, and real environmental stewardship. We must once again be the party of ideas that help hard-working families realize the American dream.
All that is in peril by candidates appealing to the worst, rather than the best, of human nature. It is tempting, as Neville Chamberlain did in the face of Hitler’s rise, for polite people to respond to bombastic fascists by quietly ignoring them and hoping they will go away like reasonable people. But people like Donald Trump are neither polite nor reasonable. At times like this, good people must rise up, call out evil for what it is and stand against it.
We must heed the wise admonition most commonly attributed to Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Now is the time for good men and women, particularly in the Republican Party, to get engaged in the presidential primary process. As I have been saying for a decade now, for too long, sensible members of both parties have ceded the candidate selection process to the fringes of their parties. This year, Republicans cannot sit idly by while the very foundational values on which our party and our nation were built are threatened.
As conservatives, we do not believe in silencing ideas that are viewed as offensive. This is not about muzzling one man, but rather about defeating the ideas he espouses. To those who are following him, we must give hope for their own lives and a greater vision for American than the xenophobic slurry with which Trump has stained our party and our national discourse.
Republicans, now is the time to defeat this scourge of our party. We can make America great again by defeating the selfishness, arrogance and bigotry of Donald Trump.