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Port: Republicans must find the courage to speak out loud about Donald Trump

What we need is courage from the Republicans who see the problems with Trump and his movement. We need them to speak out, risks to their re-election campaigns be damned.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in Washington
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump react to tear gas during a clash with police officers in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.
Leah Millis / Reuters
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MINOT, N.D. — Many Republicans know that disgraced former President Donald Trump, and the political movement loyal to him, are a threat to our nation.

We know this because many of them have said as much in private.

The most recent example is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who, immediately after Trump's supporters attacked Congress in a thwarted effort to overturn the 2020 election, was telling other congressional Republicans that he'd call on Trump to resign rather than serve out his dwindling term in office.

McCarthy initially lied about making these comments, but then the tape was released , making them undeniable. Still, in his public comments, McCarthy has gone out of his way to patch things up with the mercurial former president and his cult.

But MAGA world doesn't forgive.

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Trump mouthpiece Tucker Carlson called McCarthy a "puppet of the Democratic Party" on his Fox News show. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, another of Trump's disciples in Congress, disparaged McCarthy's stark criticisms of Trump as "sniveling."

Yet, so far, McCarthy, who aspires to be Speaker of the House should Republicans make good on their winning expectations in the midterms, seems to have the support of his caucus. He reportedly got a "standing ovation" from his fellow House Republicans during a recent closed-door meeting.

I'll leave it to you readers to decide for yourself how resilient McCarthy's support is among Republicans.

Let's, instead, talk about this strategy Republicans like McCarthy have embraced of expressing concerns about Trump privately while portraying them as loyal to the man publicly.

I get why they're doing it.

MORE FROM ROB PORT
A lot of people are watching these Republican primaries. North Dakota's government is dominated by Republicans, and there is a pitched battle going on right now for the soul of the NDGOP. These legislative races are the trenches in that battle. So far, based on one of the few objective data points we have, it appears the traditional conservatives are positioned to keep their hold on the party.

It's an act of political expediency aimed at keeping themselves in office. They're clinging to power for its own sake — this terrible moment in Republican politics is hardly the first time we've seen craven politicians do and say whatever it takes to stay in office — but part of the argument, a part said quietly and in private like the criticisms of Trump, is that they want to remain the adults in the room.

People like McCarthy and other elected Republicans are afraid to speak their criticisms of Trump and his movement out loud lest they lose their elections and get replaced by Trump sycophants.

They're afraid of a Republican caucus in Congress led by people who can't even muster the modicum of integrity it takes to criticize Trump in private.

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These Republicans are hoping to ride out the Trump era. They're hoping that if they can appease the Trumpkins long enough, they'll eventually move on, and things will get back to normal.

But this is a mistake. Appeasement doesn't work, and we aren't going back to the way things were in the GOP before Trump.

What we need is courage from the Republicans who see the problems with Trump and his movement. We need them to speak out, risks to their re-election campaigns be damned.

Absent that, the GOP, and the conservative movement, will continue its lurching progress toward something that is defined not by loyalty to ideas and principles but to the whims and ambitions of a single man.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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