Editorials

Republicans are caught in a vise of their own design

Sheriff Scott Jones, who is running for U.S. Congress in California’s 7th District, talks to The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board on Monday, days after he withdrew his support for Donald Trump.
Sheriff Scott Jones, who is running for U.S. Congress in California’s 7th District, talks to The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board on Monday, days after he withdrew his support for Donald Trump. lsterling@sacbee.com

Under the category of better late than not at all, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones denounced Donald Trump and said he would not be voting for him.

Jones, a Republican seeking to unseat Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, broke from his party’s standard bearer on Saturday, a day after the video of Trump’s sexist and predatory comments, made at age 59, became public by way of a Washington Post story.

“This will cost me votes,” Jones told The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board on Monday. “It may cost me the election. So to say I’m doing it for some sort of benefit for my campaign is extremely misguided.”

Perhaps taking a stand against Trump, albeit late, will hurt Jones. Indeed, some voters denounced him on social media. Yet to win in a swing seat, such as the 7th Congressional District, Jones must appeal to moderates.

Credit Jones with displaying some belated spine, but credit him with an ability to do the math, too. Even if he loses on Nov. 8, he has a political future, and voters in Democratic Sacramento County will remember where he stood on Trump, the fundamental issue of the 2016 campaign, and how long he stood there before he changed his mind.

Like Republicans across the nation, Jones is caught in a vise of the GOP’s own design. Some Republican leaders cringed when Trump demeaned and bullied Mexican immigrants, a prisoner of war, Muslims, Gold Star parents, women he deemed to be unattractive and disabled people. But those leaders also coveted the voters he energized, and they smelled victory.

Even now, after the vile comments recorded in 2005, and his desperate attempt to smear Hillary Clinton by invoking Bill Clinton’s scandals, too many GOP leaders still are trying to have it both ways.

Credit Jones with displaying some belated spine, but credit him with an ability to do the math, too. Voters in Democratic Sacramento County will remember where he stood on Trump, the fundamental issue of the 2016 campaign, and how long he stood there before he changed his mind.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced that he was done defending Trump and would dedicate himself to salvaging the Republican majority in Congress. Soon after Ryan made his comments, however, hard-liners in his caucus denounced him.

“Leaders are supposed to stand firm and solid in moments of crisis. Instead, he’s in a panic. It’s not good leadership,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, told the Orange County Register from the comfort of the deep red district where he has served for decades. “I think the Republicans who are backing away are gutless.”

Ryan clarified that he would be voting for Trump, thus placing the party and his position as speaker ahead of his country. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Tom McClintock, Devin Nunes, Doug LaMalfa and many others have said nothing, or nearly nothing. Like Rohrabacher, they are running in solid Republican seats and likely see no need to antagonize Trump’s voters by pretending to be profiles in courage.

Congressional Republicans who do have cause to worry about re-election – Reps. Steve Knight of Palmdale and David Valadao of Hanford, for instance – issued statements saying or restating that they would not vote for Trump, to their credit.

Others tried to have it both ways. Rep. Darrell Issa, a San Diego County Republican, saw the Post story and screwed up the courage to tweet: “This type of behavior has no place in American politics, especially not from those seeking to lead our great nation.” So would he be voting for some other presidential candidate, then?

Crickets.

Talk about going out on a limb, Mr. Issa.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, offered similar pablum, saying in a weekend statement to The Modesto Bee: “I was deeply disappointed to hear about Donald Trump’s language toward women and I find it to be beyond inappropriate.” Brave.

Justin Fareed, a Republican running to replace Rep. Lois Capps in the San Luis Obispo-Santa Barbara area, tweeted the same sort of limp statement: “Trump’s comments, regardless of when they were said, are disgusting & inexcusable. Women should be treated w/ the highest regard & respect.” Bold.

With less than a month in the campaign and Trump flailing, dumping the utterly unfit Republican presidential nominee should be a no-brainer for any politician with a spine. But winning is everything in politics, and politicians do what they must to win.

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