When Donald Trump held up a mirror to the Republican Party, many proud conservatives fled in denial, thinking, “That can’t be me.” But ugly as it was, the image reflected the horror the party has become after years of scapegoating immigrants, demonizing moderates, and defending the rights of crazed gunmen.
Among the most high-profile people who departed was George Will, who said on Fox News Sunday, “After Trump went after the ‘Mexican’ judge from northern Indiana and then (House Speaker) Paul Ryan endorsed him, I decided that in fact this was not my party anymore.”
The Trump Effect has even brought about revulsion at the Modesto Bee, where the Bee Editorial Board wrote recently, “Supporting Trump is supporting racism, misogyny, business chicanery, bullying, unparalleled narcissism, and more.” Threatening to abandon many years of support for Congressman Jeff Denham, the Bee headline reads, “If Jeff Denham can’t reject Trump, we must reject him.”
For longtime readers, the Bee’s newfound moral umbrage brought on by an orange cartoon whose barber doubles as a rodent taxidermist is high comedy. In the late eighties, like far too many, the Bee caved to right-wing bullies and became a de facto conservative newspaper. By 2012, the Bee was even too craven to endorse for president, ducking the issue altogether.
Since then, true progressives have remained amused by the Bee’s reputation as a “liberal” newspaper. Its two most favored local politicians over the last decade have been Denham himself and ultra-conservative Kristen Olsen. The Bee has repeatedly described both as, “willing to reach across the aisle,” and work with Democrats when in fact both have almost always fallen into line with the retrograde right wing of the party.
Like his congressional colleagues, Denham has consistently been anti-science, anti-equal pay, anti-environment, and anti-equal rights. He’s also consistently joined his colleagues in supporting government shutdowns that hurt his constituents. Nonetheless, these positions never moved the so-called “liberal Bee” to withhold endorsements.
It’s only now that Donald Trump has brought the ugly bare parts of the Republican base into full public view that the Bee and others are recoiling in horror at the monster behind the carefully-crafted public images of politicians like Jeff Denham.
Yes, many Republicans are fine people, but the party has far too long encouraged the worst elements of our nation with dog-whistle racism and a blustering bellicosity appealing to fear of the other. Donald Trump is merely the logical outcome of political strategies that relied heavily on talk-show bullies ranting against environmental stewardship, equal rights, and women’s right to choose.
We’re glad the Bee has finally decided to speak a little truth to power, but we wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Bee editors back down when Jeff Denham remains silent on Donald Trump. After all, he’s more dependent on the votes of Trump supporters than he is on a Bee endorsement.