Time is short

In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was riding high with the progressive wing of the Republican Party. The major GOP progressives were behind him in his planned campaign to return to the presidency by defeating his handpicked successor, William Howard Taft. Then in a speech to the Ohio Constitutional Convention on Feb. 21 four days before he announced his candidacy, Roosevelt said he supported letting the public vote to overturn court rulings of constitutional interpretation. The notion of letting the public vote constitutional rights up or down shocked progressives and they abandoned him in droves. Some of his closest allies, such as Elihu Root and Henry Stimson, abandoned him for Taft.

The racist proposals of Donald Trump are worse than anything Roosevelt proposed, yet nearly all Republicans who have endorsed him are standing by him. Like most people, we don’t know whether Trump is a racist, but it no longer matters, because he is clearly willing to employ racism in both his private business and public affairs. So the result is the same—racist policies.

In 1912, principled Republican leaders abandoned Roosevelt. In 2016, there are very few Republican leaders.

There are delegates who say they are following what the public wants. This is akin to Nevada Assemblymember Jim Wheeler’s assertion that he would vote for slavery if his constituents wanted it. Where does that notion end? When does Trump go too far? When do Republicans act? In the 1930s, someone observed Germans voting for authoritarianism and called it a flight from freedom. Are the delegates to our presidential nominating conventions nothing more than seismographs, registering prejudice but doing nothing about it?

In May in these pages, our columnist Sheila Leslie drew our attention to the words of conservative columnist David Brooks on Trump as nominee: “So for those of us appalled by this prospect—what are we supposed to do? Well, not what the leaders of the Republican Party are doing. They’re going down meekly and hoping for a quiet convention. They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.”

Do Republican delegates really want to live with a Trump outcome they did nothing to stop, and do they really want to have to explain it in the years ahead to their children, friends and neighbors?

Republicans look in horror at the opposing candidate, Hillary Clinton. But they have done a lot of this to themselves. She’s a conservative, Wall Street Democrat who goes to war too easily. By misrepresenting her as some kind of flaming liberal feminist all these years, Republicans bought into their own propaganda.

Republicans are about to nominate a candidate whose executive style is to pit people against each other, to leap on tragedy and milk it for its political value, to call out the worst in our people.

This is not the way to build a country that is competitive, productive and innovative—or decent and humane.