I really didn’t want to write about Donald Trump (except that I recently did about his name, which two generations ago was Drumpf)… or about the Pennsylvania Republican party either.
But the current conjuncture is irresistible, now that neo-Nazi leader William Daniel Johnson has called the Republican front-runner “the real deal” (TeleSUR, 12/9/15).
Johnson has run for various offices and 30 years ago notably proposed, under a pseudonym, an amendment to the US Constitution that:
“No person shall be a citizen of the United States unless he is a non-Hispanic white of the European race, in whom there is no ascertainable trace of Negro blood, nor more than one-eighth Mongolian, Asian, Asia Minor, Middle Eastern, Semitic, Near Eastern, American Indian, Malay or other non-European or non-white blood, provided that Hispanic whites, defined as anyone with an Hispanic ancestor, may be citizens if, in addition to meeting the aforesaid ascertainable trace and percentage tests, they are in appearance indistinguishable from Americans whose ancestral home is in the British Isles or Northwestern Europe. Only citizens shall have the right and privilege to reside permanently in the United States.”
You’d think that anyone running for president would say he doesn’t want the endorsement of someone like Johnson, wouldn’t you? (Photo of Trump from pennlive.com)
And now that Trump has gathered white supremacist support, antagonized Latinos and Muslims and many others, and shown such ignorance of the US constitution that he, among others, proposes a religious test for receiving visas to enter the US, wouldn’t you also think that the Pennsylvania Republican party would disinvite him from serving as featured speaker at their annual luncheon in New York City?
Good luck on that one too!
Every second weekend in December, The Pennsylvania Society holds a fundraising and networking “retreat” for Pennsylvania notables, especially from the areas of politics and business, in Manhattan. Though the event has been criticized as reflecting an objectionable power structure mentality, that isn’t the problem right now in itself.
According to Wikipedia, “much of the ‘real action’ takes place in the invitation-only dinners and receptions hosted by businesses, candidates, and lobbying firms throughout the weekend. And one of those is a luncheon put on by The Commonwealth Club. Their web site tells us that:
The Commonwealth Club represents an impressive cross section of Pennsylvanians—community leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, physicians and retirees
Members attend lunches and reception across our Commonwealth with Republican officials and leaders, sharing information on today’s important issues and keeping members informed on the Republican campaign every step of the way.
Joining the Commonwealth Club is the best way to put Republican ideas in to action!
If you’re so inclined, you can join for $1,000 a year, which is a pretty good deal if you also want to attend the luncheon with Donald Trump on Friday, because then you will pay only $250 for your lunch instead of the normal $1,000.
Republican candidates in Pennsylvania get some of the proceeds, of course.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/30/15: “He’s high in the polls. We think our donor base would like to hear from him,” said state Republican chairman Rob Gleason. Mr. Trump’s appearance is not an endorsement from the state party but should capture the curiosity of the GOP faithful, more than 300 of whom may turn out, he said.
That’s a delicate line to tread: capitalize on his notoriety, ring up the income, but keep quiet about his ideas.
The whole Trump / Commonwealth Club brouhaha is a tough one for Republican leaders and office-holders. If Trump is not the ultimate Republican candidate, denouncing him now would allow them to gain some moderate credentials, though hard-line Trump supporters would never forgive them. But if Trump turns out to be their party’s candidate, then they are in trouble, probably on his hit list, and in disgrace with Trumpistas (and also with Sarah Palin, who likes Trump’s idea.
Senator Pat Toomey will not be attending the luncheon on Friday, first citing a “scheduling conflict” but then he tweeted yesterday that “Trump is wrong. We should not have a religious test for admission to U.S. We should have a security test, and it should be bullet proof.” Admiral Joe Sestak, ever alert in his primary race to oppose Toomey in November, got in the first reply: “Then why 2 weeks ago did you say we don’t need that bullet proof test ‘if we know with certainty that the person is a Christian’?”
Here’s what Toomey said: ““If we know with certainty that the person is a Christian, then I think we can be pretty clear that they’re not a jihadist. I’m not aware of any Christians that are joining ISIS,” he said. “But that by itself is not adequate. We would want to know whether they have a criminal background or whether they would have other problems in their background.”
That really doesn’t sound too good, does it (barring obvious counterindications, Christians yes, Muslims no)? And given that the vast majority of mass shootings in the US are carried out by Christian males, the Senator’s point could use some clarification, it seems to me.
At Lancaster Online, 12/9/15, we learn that:
Lancaster County’s representatives in the House and Senate condemned Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the country, calling it “contrary to our values as a nation.”
“I have worked for decades on behalf of religious minorities, and that includes Muslims,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, who represents most of Lancaster County in the 16th Congressional District.
Pitts noted the first line of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protects religious liberty.
“The threat of Muslim terrorism is grave, but we don’t defend our core principles by sacrificing them during times of trial,” he said.
How about Chester County?
According to PoliticsPA, Representatives Costello (PA-6) will not be attending the lunch because of his busy schedule, and Rep. Meehan (PA-7) will not be attending either and “said in a statement: ‘It’s wrong, and it’s contrary to our values as a nation'” (Lancaster Online).
In the days ahead, and particularly in the Commonwealth Club context, it will be interesting to see what other office-holders have to say about Trump’s outrages. And let’s note that retiring from office (like Joe Pitts) can be liberating, whereas those on the ballot this year are more likely consumed with Fear of Trump. Here are the choices I see from easy to hard (for Republicans, that is):
1) Say nothing or be busy on something else (Costello, above);
2) Denounce what Trump said about Muslims (Pitts, above);
3) Take issue directly with the hatred, racism, and xenophobia that seem to be the Trump campaign’s life blood and denounce his whole modus operandi.
Examples of level 3: Jeb Bush on Twitter, 12/7/15, “Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.” Lindsey Graham: “If you want to make America great again, tell Donald Trump to go to hell.” It’s a lot easier attack Trump head-on for his primary rivals, who are after all running against him, than for candidates for lower offices, who may have to run with him at the top of their ticket. What a dilemma! Of course, candidates could just say what they believe… or maybe they already are by their skittishness.
I’ve tried to track down any further statements by Chesco office-holders on their web sites, Facebook, Twitter, or in the media. For now, I have the impression that choice 1), above, is the favorite. Any reader who finds substantive statements, please so indicate in Comments.
PS 12/10/15: If you feel strongly about this, you can sign a petition at US Action, whose text is: “This Friday, December 11, Donald Trump will be the keynote speaker for the Pennsylvania Republican Party. Tickets to the event cost from $1,000 to $10,000. In light of Trump’s recent unconstitutional call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, we are demanding that the PA GOP rescind their invitation to Trump. If they do not, it means that they support Trump and his outrageous positions.”
PS I also wrote about Trump in “Trump, DiGiorgio, and the Big Tent” on August 5, 2015. I think what I said then still stands: “I hope voters will watch carefully for any GOP progress in renouncing Trump and all he stands for or in getting serious about the well-worn Big Tent principle.”