Send GOP congressmen home
What's more, 72% of Americans, including 68% of Republicans, believe it's patriotic to point out where America falls short -- the offense for which Trump attacked the nonwhite lawmakers.
Leaders shape public opinion. That's why Republican voters' views of immigration and free trade have soured during Trump's tenure. Republican members of Congress, if they chose to lead, could counter his excesses. Instead, for fear of losing their jobs, they cower -- and their silence normalizes the obscene.
Only after they're out do they manage to find their voices. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who just quit the GOP, correctly judged that the "send her back" chant "is the inevitable consequence of President Trump's demagoguery. This is how history's worst episodes begin."
Former Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci, likewise, had his invitation to address the Palm Beach County GOP yanked after he criticized Trump's words. He warned that Trump is "turning into" a racist.
And then there's Paul Ryan, who, during his troubled speakership, maintained a pro-Trump posture, rarely breaking with him publicly. Now out of power, Ryan told Politico's Tim Alberta for his new book, "American Carnage," that Trump "didn't know anything about government."
Belatedly, Ryan laments the injuries to institutions and moral standards. "We've gotten so numbed by it all," said the man who for two years served as chief anesthetist.
All but a handful of the 250 Republicans in Congress are sensible enough to know that the now-former British ambassador, Kim Darroch, had it right when he predicted, in a leaked document, that Trump's administration won't "become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept."
Yet the Republicans remain silent. And Trump pronounces himself once again to be a "stable genius." And threatens to defy a Supreme Court ruling before reversing himself. And bids farewell to his ninth Cabinet officer -- a modern record -- in yet another scandal. And sends mixed messages to Iran, North Korea and Turkey. And hosts conspiracy theorists at the White House. And now launches a racist attack on dark-skinned members of Congress.
So it will continue. Republican lawmakers made their choice to give Trump their tacit approval. The ugliness in North Carolina is what happens when leaders become mere followers.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.
(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group