UPDATE: According to Politico, Sen. Deb Fischer recently clarified that she plans "to vote for Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence on November 8." Her original statement about asking Trump to step aside for Pence's run was a reaction to his "unacceptable" comments about his locker room comments.
Everything has an expiration date: term papers, teenage romances and milk. Opinions are no exception. Opinions, although they frame who we are as people and who we are as a nation, lead topical lives. If you can’t get your thoughts in on time, you might as well throw them out with the milk that’s been curdling in the forgotten depths of your fridge for the last four weeks. However, this line of logic should be held to a higher standard with people who hold a position of power and visibility.
Of Nebraska’s elected officials, Sen. Deb Fischer and Representative Jeff Fortenberry withdrew their Republican support for Donald Trump on Oct. 8 after his lewd sexual remarks released this past week. Their change of heart toward the Republican nominee for president came late in the election game, particularly because early voting has already started. Only Nebraskan Republican Sen. Ben Sasse criticized the nominee early on – back in February – after Trump’s inability to “condemn the KKK.”
But our Nebraska representatives in Washington are not alone in their late-term lack of support for their party’s nominee. According to the New York Times, more than 160 Republican leaders don’t support Donald Trump. In the article, it list off when the various senators and representatives formally withdrew their support. Of them, 51 representatives disavowed Trump after the recently revealed crude language surfaced. The 51 politicians include former presidential nominee John Kasich, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Arizona governor John McCain.
Their words, however, are about as useful as your expired milk in the fridge. For voters, we’ve watched these politicians contest Trump but never whole-heartedly deem him unworthy of the oval office. They’ve tip-toed around his other bawdy behavior, such as when he called illegal Mexican immigrants “rapists,” publicly said McCain was “not a war hero...because he was captured” and encouraged his ralliers to exhibit physical force on protesters. Although abhorrent and laced with sexist language, it’s sad for me to admit that this isn’t the worst conglomeration of language Trump has spewed at us in the past year and a half.
Listening to their public refusals of Trump, I roll my eyes. Republican, Democratic and undecided voters alike can all hear the lack of authenticity in their words. Say what you will about Trump, or Drump if you’re a purist, but there is a visible dichotomy between him and our US representatives. It’s only fitting that now a good portion of Republican politicians are beginning to disavow him, particularly since early voting is beginning to kick into gear across the United States.
We know Washington is afraid of Trump, and we know a good portion of them waited until now because this is their last chance to say, “I never supported him.” Maybe they waited this long to avoid the reality of it all, like the impending pile of laundry that you can always “get to later.” But if politics is anything, it’s a game of chess where every move has a reason.
They waited in order to show they could stand by their nominee, to take attention away from Hillary. But now that voters are traversing into decided territory and starting to vote early, Republican representatives are washing their hands of Trump. They believe it protects them from assuming responsibility for Trump’s actions, but it won’t hide them from voters’ scrutiny.
Trump is liked by voters because he is seen as a threat to how the Republican party functions: he’s an outsider to the way the great political game is played. Now, party leaders’ actions aren’t so much hurting the Republican nominee as helping to serve his point. When voters see elected party leaders creating distance between themselves and Trump, they don’t see them as morally sound. Voters see them as promoters of Clinton, as going against their own party.
If there is anything this election has taught us, it’s the importance of sticking with your gut and speaking out while you have the chance. Fischer and Fortenberry would have greater agency and authenticity had they spoken out earlier like Sasse. John McCain, a vocal advocate for veteran’s rights and welfare, could have had an impact on the election if he formally withdrew support after Trump directly criticized him and the cause we know is closest to him.
Maybe we could have had another nominee for president on the Republican ticket. This election wouldn’t so much have been a battle of the lesser of two evils if Republican leaders would have spoken and acted sooner. They treated Trump like a two-year-old toddler throwing a temper tantrum over spilled milk. As the year and months have flown by, they forgot to take into account that he was developing into a grown-up threat to their party.
They say not to cry over spilled milk, but now it’s beginning to expire. Unfortunately for them, it’s going to rot the Republican party along with it.