The Republican Party will either be the Party of Lincoln or the Party of Trump.
But it cannot be both.
While the first Republican president called upon “the better angels of our nature,” Trump peddles the worst dogma.
Trump is now the clear front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. That does not mean that he will be the party’s 2016 nominee. But it does mean that Republican leaders must make clear their position as regards a Trump-led GOP ticket.
A failure to reject the billionaire’s vile bigotry at this relatively early stage of the campaign cedes the fight for the soul of the party to Trump. Unless responsible Republicans clearly and unequivocally disavow the billionaire now, they are effectively saying that the party is prepared to accept Trump or, at the very least, Trumpism.
Trump has invited a formal rebuke for months, with his crude attacks on immigrants, his false statements about African Americans, his absolute distortions regarding American Muslims. But his proposal for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” has crossed new lines of extremism.
As former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, a Democratic presidential contender, says, Trump’s latest tirade “removes all doubt: he is running for President as a fascist demagogue.”
Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination responded to Monday’s outbursts with criticism that ranged from the tepid (Ted Cruz: “Well, that is not my policy”) to the noxious (Carly Fiorina: “Trump’s overreaction is as dangerous as President Obama’s under-reaction”).