I went in search of local Republican candidates for Congress or governor who are enthusiastic backers of the party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump. I did find one.
Chris Vance is sure looking good now, isn’t he?
He’s about the only Republican around who isn’t squirming with buyer’s remorse.
A month ago, Vance, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, became one of the few GOP candidates in the nation to publicly break with his own party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump. More tellingly, he was one of the few willing to say either yea or nay wholeheartedly — to take a clear stand on Trump one way or another.
Vance got bashed as a traitor. But since then, Trump has proceeded to embarrass the party by dropping racist comments with the shameful ease of your crazy uncle. It has sparked anew calls for candidates to break with the nominee, or for those who endorsed Trump to reconsider. (On Tuesday, one Republican U.S. senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois, officially unendorsed Trump, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen happen before.)
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I asked all the local Republicans running for governor or area congressional seats to weigh in on the Trump or Not Trump question. For those who didn’t answer, I had to rely on their most recent public statements.
The shimmy-shaking in Republican World would dazzle a dance troupe.
There’s the “It’s Not Me, It’s You” Deflection. Spokane Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers mastered this move. Yes, Trump’s comments about women, people with disabilities and minorities may be detestable, she said in endorsing him. But “a record-breaking number of Republican Party voters have cast their ballots for him. It’s essential we respect the will of the people … In fact, their will should be revered.”
There’s the “It’s All Above My Pay Grade” Twist, perfected by the only statewide elected Republican here, Secretary of State Kim Wyman: “I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t control any of the things happening at the national level. Nor am I going to try,” she said, in declining to say whether she’s backing Trump.
There’s the “I’m Too Busy Working for You” Shuffle, employed endlessly now by GOP governor candidate Bill Bryant, who insists he’s too focused on salmon recovery and school funding to answer about Trump. (His only response to me was: “I look forward to talking with you about the governor’s race.”) While Congressman Dave Reichert went with the “Detached Observer” Dodge, issuing the following Zen koan: “We’ve seen over the last several months that the person chosen isn’t always who we expect.”
A few peripheral candidates did actually answer the question, to their credit. They said they are backing Trump, though with about the enthusiasm you have when pooper-scoopering your dog.
“I will probably support the con man because his actions will be limited by Congress,” GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Hirt of Bellevue said in a ringing endorsement. “While the crook (by which he means Hillary Clinton) will have the media support and enough congressional support to do great harm.”
“I would endorse Donald Trump if he would apologize to that Mexican judge,” Sixth Congressional District candidate Stephan Brodhead said. He then added, a la U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, that racism or no, he plans to vote for Trump in November anyway.
Where are the full-throated Trump backers?
“Yes, sir, I support Trump. I see him as the only one in this entire campaign who would step up and lead.”
I got that from perennial candidate Goodspaceguy, who’s running for governor as a Republican (this means all the GOP candidates for governor, except Bill Bryant, have now mustered the courage to at least answer the Trump question).
Goodspaceguy started explaining why he supports Trump’s proposed Muslim ban. He compared admitting Muslim refugees to the peril of eating from a box of 100 chocolates with two poisonous ones.
I thought to myself: How strange. I couldn’t find any major-office candidates for the Grand Old Party around here willing to offer a vigorous defense of their nominee for president of the United States. They either didn’t respond, tap-danced like Mumble the Happy Feet Penguin or offered the types of rationalizations you might use to excuse the bad behavior of a troubled relative.
The only one fully on board for Trump was Goodspaceguy.
Like I said: Chris Vance is sure looking good now.