Are they embarrassed enough? Horrified enough?
Has it finally become, after the seditious and deadly attack that President Donald Trump incited Wednesday on our nation’s Capitol, unfashionable enough for any of the 74 million Republicans nationwide and 3.37 million Pennsylvanians who voted for him to say that, at last, enough is enough of Trumpism?
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Maybe. Just maybe they are ready to do the heavy work of trying to fuse back together a shattered nation.
One by one, here and there, Republicans are stepping out of silence since the insurrection that left a reported five people dead inside and outside the halls of Congress. It’s a notable and essential start that must grow, and quickly, in the days ahead if we are to find a path out of the madness laid bare by Trump’s destructive presidency.
Trump-backing marauders left House and Senate members effectively barricaded inside the Capitol on Wednesday as their work to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s November win over Trump was disrupted by the invasion. Not enough lawmakers responded with meaningful pushback against Trump’s malice. But far beyond Washington bravery exists in inverse proportion to proximity to the Beltway. There, the chorus is growing.
What you hear are words that resemble the sound of honor awakening from a long sleep. Words that we need more of from more Republicans if we are to defuse, over the long term, the minefield that Trump has laid across our land.
“Enough is enough. You can’t believe a word that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” 70-year-old Republican Bucks County Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo, a former longtime GOP state legislator, said in an open letter Friday as Democrats in Washington called for Trump to resign before Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. “The dishonesty of our President is astounding.”
DiGirolamo expressed disgust over the insurrection. After years of Republicans tolerating Trump lies in return for corporate tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest of their constituents, Wednesday’s violence showed their leader had crossed a line that should never be crossed if democracy is to be preserved.
“Trump and his lies are not part of the Republican Party that I belong to,” DiGirolamo wrote, “and it is time to pull our party free from the angry, cynical circus he has created.”
From Missouri the night before, the words of reawakened honor came from former GOP Sen. Jack Danforth. In remarks to the Kansas City Star, he took aim at both Trump and Sen. Josh Hawley, whom Danforth said he regretted having mentored to become U.S. senator.
Danforth eviscerated his protege for having helped spark the Capitol melee by having championed, ahead of the certification vote, a challenge to Biden’s win by invoking Trump’s conspiracy-theory-fueled claims of electoral fraud.
“I thought he was special,” Danforth was quoted Thursday as telling the Star. “And I did my best to encourage people to support him both for attorney general and later the U.S. Senate and it was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life.”
And a solid week before the sedition that left the nation and world agape in horror, veteran Republican Sen. Gene Yaw of deeply conservative Williamsport had stood alone among leaders of his caucus. He dispensed tough words in late December for Trump’s claims of a rigged election in Pennsylvania.
In a Dec. 28 open letter titled “Let’s Get Things Straight” and that began with “Enough is enough,” Yaw laid out a meticulous takedown of the bogus allegations that many of his fellow Pennsylvania Republicans were embracing ahead of the Electoral College vote in Congress.
Yaw’s sharpest barb came in a recitation of Trump’s failed efforts to win in just about every one of his dozens of legal challenges since Election Day, many of those rulings coming from Republican judges.
“Either Trump has the dumbest lawyers on the planet,” Yaw wrote, “or there really is no proof of widespread fraud or irregularities. "
Now is not the time for hollow pronouncements calling only for vague “healing” without consequences. That is meaningless when not married to action and rhetoric that seeks to put a knife into Trumpism and its treachery against our republic.
We need Republicans to unequivocally disavow the president. Anything short of that is like hiding under a rock as invaders bear down on your family’s village.
This alone, of course, does not erase the damage done. Nor would impeachment or otherwise forcibly removing Trump from office ahead of Inauguration Day. His movement has strong appeal, especially if its lies continue being peddled by shadowy internet and fact-challenged cable news outlets, as they will.
But there is great value in showing a constructive other path to conservatism. It’s as if a new kid moves to a high school and is so charming that the market for Mean Girls suddenly dries up.
“This has been building for several generations and it has been accelerated by the person who’s been sitting in the Oval Office for the past four years because of his rhetoric, which is laced with self-serving lies,” said Gettysburg College history professor Michael Birkner.
“This didn’t happen overnight,” Birkner added. “It’s not going to be resolved overnight.”
Swift legislative action by Biden could do much to reunify voters with economic packages bolstering schools, infrastructure, and the lives of everyone, regardless of political stripe. Securing the Senate majority that came with Georgia runoff election victories now makes that doable.
Just as important will be whether Republicans repair their own torched house. The devastation at the Capitol might actually have created an opportunity for that.
“A week ago, I would have told you that the Republican Party is definitively the Trump party,” Birkner said one day after the Capitol insurrection. “Now I think there’s a lot more uncertainty about where the Republican Party is going to land. ... I am hopeful that Trump’s brand is so damaged now that there’s an option for Republicans to regroup and rethink what the hell they’re for.”
DiGirolamo offers a rhetorical road map. You start by drawing a hard line between acceptable resistance to policies and unacceptable, democracy-killing indulgence of seditious anger.
And you are crystal clear in your language.
DiGirolamo called Trump not just a liar but a demagogue.
“I didn’t pull no punches,” DiGirolamo told me. “I just couldn’t take anymore, Maria.”
His message to younger Republicans afraid of career damage: