Some of the best-known Republicans in the country are letting loose, blasting presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump as an immature hot head and a danger to the party.
Just over a week ago, conservative columnist George Will dropped his membership in the Republican Party to become an unaffiliated voter because of his concerns about Trump. Will said of the GOP, “This is not my party anymore.”
Will took his party rejection a step further by urging Republicans to refrain from donating, to make sure Trump doesn’t win.
Two former American presidents, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, have refused to attend the GOP national convention in Cleveland July 18-21. And the GOP’s two most recent presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, also are expected to be absent at the convention because of their lack of support for Trump.
Conservative stalwart and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote that she feels sad, mourning that this election could come down to a contest between “ a crazy man and a criminal.”
In a recent column, Noonan wrote, “You can say of Mr. Trump, as one of his supporters did, that the body politic is sick and he is the enema Washington needs.” That’s pretty harsh language to refer to your party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Henry Paulson, the U.S. treasury secretary under George W. Bush, said he’s “not the only Republican to call Donald Trump a phony.”
“The GOP, in putting Trump at the top of the ticket, is endorsing a brand of populism rooted in ignorance, prejudice, fear and isolationism,” Paulson wrote. “This troubles me deeply as a Republican, but it troubles me even more as an American. Enough is enough. It’s time to put country before party and say it together: Never Trump.”
Yet here in Hawaii, GOP elites are keeping silent. Nobody is saying “Never Trump.” Even the top local party members openly repelled by Trump are silencing themselves.
It makes you wonder if they all got a memo saying “No talk stink.”
I yearn for the morning I will open the paper to an op-ed piece by a local GOP grand poobah saying, ‘Why I Refuse to Support Donald Trump.”
Or conversely, to see an article from a top Hawaii Republican pointing out why Trump offers a reasonable alternative to the status quo.
Maybe the political debate is non-existent here because Trump’s Hawaii supporters don’t want to stand out like sore thumbs in a Democrat state.
Hawaii’s GOP National Committeewoman Miriam Hellreich said, “a lot of traditional Republicans and Democrats will be voting for Trump, but they are not talking about it to their friends, neighbors or pollsters.
Hellreich said it is because many of them “who work for the city, county and state, or who have contracts with government, fear retribution in the work place if they publicly support a Republican.”
Hawaii’s 19 GOP delegates will head for the convention with 11 delegates supporting Trump, seven supporting Ted Cruz and one delegate for Marco Rubio.
You would think local Republicans would have the confidence to speak out after the record turnout at the GOP caucus in March, with a 53 percent increase in participants over the 2012 Hawaii presidential caucus. Hellreich is still marveling over the voting sites, which she said were mobbed with people standing in long lines in the rain in places like Enchanted Lake in Kailua, waiting to vote.
But now that the voters have committed their support to candidates — most of it to Trump — you don’t hear much.
Kimo Sutton, an early organizer for Trump, said supporters don’t want to take flak for supporting the Donald in Democrat Hawaii.
“You don’t get any bluer; you don’t get any more Democrat than Hawaii,” said Sutton.
Sutton, a ride-share company owner, said some of his passengers are happy when they see his Trump bumper stickers but others get upset. “I had some interesting discussions while driving,” he said.
Nathan Paikai, an evangelical minister, is the chairman of the Trump campaign in Hawaii.
Paikai said a woman he knows called to tell him she feared a critic had flattened her tire in a parking lot because of her Trump bumper sticker. Turned out her tire was OK. Paikai said the woman was being a bit paranoid because of anti-Trump pushback she’d been getting from friends earlier.
GOP leaders such as former Hawaii GOP Chairwoman Pat Saiki, who once criticized Trump as outrageous and rude, now show restraint when they discuss the candidate who repulses them.
In the past, Saiki dismissed Trump, saying, “He is very careless with his remarks, not as respectful as we like our candidates here to be.”
Now that Trump is the presumptive presidential nominee, Saiki said, “I am going to have to support him.”
She wanted Jeb Bush to win. And after Bush stepped down, she hoped for John Kasich.
Saiki said nowadays she tries to keep her focus on the need for a Republican to win the presidency to assure a conservative justice is selected to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Saiki, too, wondered why there is such deafening silence in Hawaii about Trump.
“I don’t understand. There hasn’t been much dialogue in the GOP. I don’t see letters to the editor or locally written op-ed pieces,” she said.
Saiki called this a very unusual election with political alliances changing by the minute.
She said you don’t see a lot of local political analysis or editorial letters about Hillary Clinton, either. It’s like everyone is shell shocked about the weirdness of the presidential race.
But that belies the serious debate going on about Trump among GOP stalwarts on the mainland. People talking about the ruination of the Republican Party and how Trump’s stain will taint the GOP for years.
Political analyst and Civil Beat columnist Neal Milner said the lack of debate about Trump among Hawaii Republicans is symptomatic of the local party’s weakness. It’s a bad sign, he said.
“It shows how down in the dumps the Hawaii GOP is,” he said. “The party has so presence. They are so used to being losers. There is no seasoned intellectual GOP voice to speak out on GOP candidates. There is no one in the party here to spark a sustained and substantive debate about Trump, either pro or con.”
But Hellreich is eternally optimistic. She has to be. She’s been a top leader in the Hawaii GOP for more than 15 years and ranks as the second-highest woman leader on the Republican National Committee. She said it’s just too early to expect a lot of op-ed newspaper writing and debate on Trump now.
“Once the convention is over, given the importance of this election, I hope Hawaii voters will have more political courage to support our nominee,” she said.
I hope she is right about people speaking out, one way or the other, because without open debate, the silence is stultifying.