Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 20, 2016, p. A7
Iowa’s statewide and congressional elected officials — Gov. Terry Branstad, U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and U.S. Reps. Rod Blum, David Young, and Steve King — are doing great harm to Iowa, themselves and a future Republican Party by continuing their endorsements of Donald Trump.
This is not a partisan, pro-Hillary Clinton judgment. I supported Sen. Bernie Sanders.
As a Democrat, I want to “make the Republican Party great again.” The evolution of a democracy’s wise public policy requires the thorough consideration of alternatives that can only emerge from civil, cooperative — and yes, compromising — conversation between those whose differing opinions are grounded in agreed-upon facts.
I’m old enough to remember that Republican Party, and to long for its return. That day is only delayed by Republican officials who say, in effect, that Donald Trump’s actions and words represent their values.
Is Donald Trump really someone they hold up to their children as a model? Do they really think he has the knowledge of domestic needs and world affairs, experience in government, mature judgment, people skills, respect for others and the values to be one of America’s best presidents? Is he even a conservative?
Numerous Republican officials share my view.
The party’s highest ranked official (Speaker Paul Ryan), most recent presidents (George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush), and presidential candidates (Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney) have refused to support Trump.
Now, they’ve been joined by over 50 leading Republicans — governors, U.S. senators and representatives — who either never did, or do not now, support him. Some think Trump should drop out. Some say they’ll vote for Hillary Clinton. Others merely say they can’t endorse or vote for him.
By early October, no major U.S. newspaper had endorsed Trump. Some conservative papers that have never endorsed a Democrat are supporting Hillary Clinton; others merely advise readers not to vote for Trump.
One can sympathize with Iowa’s Republican leaders. It’s not easy to reject one’s presidential nominee. But the cost of their supporting Trump far exceeds any benefit.
• That they supported Trump will forever be a large blot on their personal political legacy.
• It will make it more difficult to rebuild a new, improved, responsible Republican Party in Iowa and the U.S., especially while Trump attacks Republican leaders.
• Trump’s stirring up even more divisiveness and polarization is a disservice. It brings out the worst in us, rather than our best. Iowa’s leaders are encouraging emulation of someone who deals in ridicule and mean-spirited disparagement of women, entire races, religions and ethnicities; war heroes, people with disabilities and Gold Star mothers.
• Iowans are proud of their reputation for “Iowa nice,” their welcoming of immigrant populations from around the world, their ethical and religious values — a culture diametrically opposed to what Trump represents.
• Iowans, like all Americans, want our state to be well thought of by others — especially those with ill-informed biases who think we’re just backwater, flyover country. Our leaders’ support for Trump only reinforces our critics’ worst prejudices.
• We are trying to attract the best and the brightest to our state — faculty and students, leaders of large and small businesses, skilled workers and the creative class. We want to retain our first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. Other states have lost business for being far less offensive than Trump.
Iowa’s Republican officials don’t need to drop their membership in the Republican Party, or announce they are voting for Hillary Clinton. They don’t need to publicly itemize the daily lengthening list of reasons why Trump is unsuited to be president.
What they do need to do, for their own sake and that of their constituents, is to join the impressive ranks of responsible Republicans who have announced they are neither endorsing nor voting for Donald Trump.
Nicholas Johnson is a former Iowa Democratic congressional primary candidate and Washington official. He blogs at FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com.