House Speaker Paul Ryan is the latest member of the Washington establishment to speak out against Donald Trump’s reluctance to condemn the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke.
Ryan told reporters on Tuesday morning that, “If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people's prejudices.”
He continued that, “This is fundamental. And if someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this. I hope this is the last time I need to speak out on this race.”
On Sunday, Trump claimed during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that he knew nothing about David Duke or “white supremacists,” refusing to disavow Duke’s endorsement. He later blamed the incident on a “bad earpiece,” but the truth of Trump’s pandering to his racist base is obvious.
Trump did later disavow Duke, telling “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos on Monday that he was “totally disavowed…I disavowed him every time I speak to somebody, virtually, and they just keep it going.”
Despite Ryan’s strong words, he did admit that that, “My plan is support the nominee.” At this point, Trump appears to have a 99 percent chance of securing the nomination, so Ryan is essentially allowing all of the hideous statements Trump has made to go unimpeded.
Trump’s outward racism is a result of the GOP’s years of coded racism, so it’s no surprise that his bigotry resonates with so much of the GOP base.
Certain Republican senators, such as Nebraskan Ben Sasse, have stated they will not vote for Trump in the general election and may even leave the party over his nomination: “I want to celebrate what’s great about America in the Republican Party, but if the Republican Party becomes the party of David Duke, Donald Trump, I’m out,” Sasse said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
If other leaders in the Republican Party feel similarly, they should take a principled stand like Sasse, instead of assimilating to the new normal as Ryan appears to be ready to do.