When the Republican candidates for president debate Tuesday night, they should all be asked a simple question: In light of Donald Trump’s crude and divisive stances, will you refuse to support him if he is the party’s nominee for president?
Only by making it clear that some principles matter more than partisanship will the Republican contenders give meaning to their recent criticisms of the front runner.
Unfortunately, Republican candidates and party leaders have so far been unwilling to reject Trump and Trumpism in anything more than the most self-serving and frequently tepid terms. Plenty of Republicans say they object to Trump’s religious-test bigotry, and a few have even objected to his other bigotries. But they lack the courage to declare that they will not support the billionaire if he secures the Republican nomination.
The worst of the lot, House Speaker Paul Ryan, says Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from the United States is “not conservatism” and “not what this party stands for,” and then says that, of course, “I’m going to support whoever the Republican nominee is…” Translation, he will call out Trump, collect compliments for raising concerns, and then back Trump.
Ryan, party leaders like Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus, and most of billionaire’s fellow contenders for the 2016 GOP nomination strengthen the hand of the Trump and Trumpism when they distance themselves from the most noxious expressions of his politics, yet say they plan to back him if he is nominated.
The only way to block Trump is to oppose Trump, clearly and unequivocally.
And, as of now, very few Republicans are doing that.
One congressman is stepping up, however, to unequivocally reject Trump. And in so doing he is showing his fellow Republicans how to stand on principle.
Wisconsin Republican Reid Ribble, who represents a historically competitive district just north of Ryan’s, is saying absolutely and unapologetically that he does not back Trump—and, more importantly, that he will not back Trump.
“I am not obligated to support a bad candidate from any party,” says Ribble. “I will not support Donald Trump for president of the United States, no matter what the circumstances.”
Ribble has served three terms in the House and has developed a reputation as a common-sense conservative with an independent streak. Earlier this year, he quit the right-wing Freedom Caucus, after it disrupted the process of replacing former Speaker John Boehner.