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Jan 5, 2022, 5:29:00 PMJan 5
The GOP superspreaders of Trump’s contagion
Former president Donald Trump speaks at the North Carolina Republican
Convention in Greenville, N.C., on Saturday. (Chris Seward/AP)
Image without a caption
E.J. Dionne Jr.
June 6, 2021 at 12:45 p.m. EDT
Donald Trump took his campaign against American democracy to North
Carolina on Saturday and offered a rambling, grievance-laden harangue that
ought to catalyze Republican leaders to repudiate a man whose lies,
bigotry and irrationality are turning their party into a moral sinkhole.
Fat chance, I know. But Republicans should watch Trump’s 90-minute
diatribe in its entirety. They might realize that tying their fate to a
washed-up demagogue and the extremists he cultivates is not only an
affront to decency. It could also be a colossal political mistake.
Most Washington Republicans say they want to “move on” from Trump. But
they avoid anything that might offend his delicate sensibilities or those
of his supporters.
Sorry, guys, but you won’t be able to “move on” to the responsible
governing you purport to believe in until you confront the anti-democratic
virus in your party and the vile man spreading the contagion.
And spread it Trump did during his 90-minute soliloquy at the state GOP
convention in Greenville, N.C. Almost everything he said drew raucous
cheers — except, curiously, his taking full credit for the pandemic-ending
Trump slams Fauci, China in rare public speech
Former president Donald Trump spoke June 5 to the North Carolina GOP,
deriding Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg, infectious disease expert Anthony S.
Fauci and China. (Reuters)
Now, I suspect that a substantial majority of Americans — certainly this
one — would prefer to ignore Trump and let him rave into a void.
Alas, there is no void, as his adoring crowd demonstrated Saturday.
They warmed to his staple attacks on “criminal aliens” and “murderers,
drug dealers”; his calls for China to pay $10 trillion in global
“reparations” for covid-19 damage; all of it peppered with distorted
critiques of President Biden’s policies. To cover up his own pandemic
failures, he joined his allies’ escalating campaign against Anthony Fauci,
whom he called “a hell of a promoter” but also “a radical masker” who had
been “wrong on almost every issue.”
Trump’s most energetic moments came in service to two of his favorite
causes: the “disgrace” of the 2020 election and defending himself.
One falsehood followed another about “thousands and thousands of people,
dead people” casting ballots, dropboxes as tools of fraud in “the most
corrupt election in the history of our country” and the supposed
manipulation of mail ballots by Democrats.
And referring to the ongoing investigations of his business activities,
Trump denounced New York’s “radical-left prosecutors” and their “crusade
to inflict pain on me.”
You might dismiss it all as a nostalgic road show but for this: Polls show
that most Republicans believe Trump’s preposterous election claims.
Republican politicians in at least 14 states have deployed Trump’s
fantasies as excuses to pass voter-suppression measures, some of which
read as if they were translated directly from the Russian or the
Hungarian. Imitating the efforts of strongmen abroad to undercut free
electoral competition, some of these laws empower partisan bodies to set
aside honest ballot counts.
And while Washington Republicans coddle Trump or fall silent, many in
their party embrace the lunatic fringe.
Take the bizarre QAnon conspiracy. Pollsters at PRRI recently asked
Americans if they agreed or disagreed that “the government, media, and
financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-
worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.”
An astonishing 23 percent of Republicans agreed, and 28 percent of
Republicans agreed that “because things have gotten so far off track, true
American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our
How far do things have to go before GOP leaders join a brave few in their
party in insisting that enough is enough? We’ve already had a violent
assault on the Capitol, yet only 35 GOP House members and six senators
were willing to support a bipartisan investigation into the events of Jan.
6. Silence or, at best, mumbled words of dissent leave the conspiracists,
the advocates of violence and the believers in Trump’s nonsense
The GOP figures that staying close to Trump will rally his supporters to
the polls in 2022. But Republican pollster Whit Ayres cites the 2017
governor’s race in Virginia as a cautionary tale: Turnout went up in pro-
Trump rural counties but “went up far more in anti-Trump suburban and
metropolitan counties,” leading to the defeat of Republican Ed Gillespie
by Democrat Ralph Northam.
Yes, outside of presidential-election years, embracing Trump may energize
his opponents far more than his supporters. This was a factor in New
Mexico Democrat Melanie Stansbury’s landslide victory in a special
election for a U.S. House seat last week.
As Rep. Sean Maloney (N.Y.), chair of the Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee, told me, “I don’t think there’s any evidence that they
can do Trump toxicity and get Trump turnout without Trump on the ballot.”
Republicans ought to stand up to Trump on behalf of their own dignity, and
for democracy itself. Failing that, enlightened self-interest suggests
that taking on bullies is a task that cannot be postponed forever.
Dana Milbank: Will Republicans filibuster all of this?