Here’s what’s most troubling about the prominent Republicans who have deserted Donald Trump because of the video in which he made revolting remarks about women: Many of those same people stood by him for more than a year while he made almost daily statements demeaning Hispanics, as if that were OK.
Something has gone fundamentally wrong with the Republican Party. From a practical standpoint, the party — which has been hijacked by right-wing white nationalists fed with a constant stream of conspiracy theories by Fox News — has ignored one of the main lessons of its 2012 defeat.
In a 100-page, 2012 election postmortem by the Republican National Committee released in March 2013, the party concluded that it had lost in part because it had alienated Hispanic voters with its anti-immigration stands.
The document recommended endorsing comprehensive immigration reform — a code word for the Obama-backed idea of giving most undocumented immigrants a path to legalization under certain conditions. The analysis warned that “if we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”
Indeed, the Republicans have been steadily losing Hispanic voters in recent years.
George W. Bush, the last Republican to win the White House, obtained 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain got 31 percent in 2008, Mitt Romney got 27 percent in 2012, and Trump — according to the latest Pew Research poll, conducted before the release of the video in which he boasts about sexually assaulting women — had 19 percent.
But worse than all of that is the Republican Party’s abandonment of basic moral principles.
Since Trump announced his run for the presidency in mid-2015, he based much of his campaign on the premise that most Mexican immigrants are “rapists” and “criminals.” He has repeatedly insulted Muslims, as if all 1.6 billion of them were terrorists, and has publicly made fun of the physically handicapped. And with some notable exceptions, Republicans looked the other way.
Where were McCain, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and dozens of other high-profile Republicans who didn’t break with Trump until the Oct. 7 release of Trump’s now-infamous video?
Most of them, like McCain, explained that they had made their difficult decision because “I have daughters.” Where were they when Trump demonized Hispanics? Don’t they have any Hispanic friends?
Where were they when Trump said that Indiana-born federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel was not qualified to preside over a case involving the failed Trump University because of the judge’s Mexican heritage?
Where were they when Trump was spreading the falsehood that Obama was not born in the United States, and that he may be a Muslim, until Trump finally admitted as late as Sept. 16 that the president was born in this country?
African-Americans had been saying for years that Trump’s Birther movement was a racist effort to de-legitimize the first black president of the United States.
Where were those leading Republicans when Trump — who has never served in the military — belittled the Khans, the American Muslim parents whose son died in Iraq while trying to rescue fallen U.S. soldiers and was given a posthumous Gold Star for his act of heroism?
Where were they when Venezuelan-born former Miss Universe Alicia Machado told the world that Trump had called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” — an apparent reference to her being a Latina — after she had gained weight? And when Trump continued to demean her as recently as two weeks ago?
My opinion: If Trump loses the election — as now seems likely — and America spares itself from having a banana republic-styled autocrat as president, the Republican Party must do much more than a critical self-examination. It must recover its moral compass.
It should ban from its ranks any member who doesn’t abide by basic human decency principles that call for not demonizing others for their ethnicity, religion or gender. If it doesn’t do so, the Republican Party may just as well declare itself dissolved.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172; email: [email protected].
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