The conventional wisdom surrounding Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States isn’t quite right. The consensus seems to be that the Republican establishment, en masse, was repulsed by Trump’s bigotry, which represented a victory for basic human decency.
The truth is more complex. Some prominent GOP figures, to their credit, quickly denounced Trump’s garbage – a group that includes members of the congressional Republican leadership. Some, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), were especially ferocious in their condemnations.
But as Rachel noted on the show last night, others in the party were more circumspect. Even other presidential candidates, including Rand Paul, seemed more inclined to find common cause with Trump’s extremism than disparage it.
Today, the Republican Party’s mixed message on Trump’s radical bigotry became even more obvious. BuzzFeed’s John Stanton reported:
Sen. Ted Cruz and three other Republican senators voted on Thursday against a non-binding Senate resolution affirming that the United States does not use religious tests for immigrants seeking admission into the country.The resolution, which is an amendment to a maritime security bill, reads simply, “It is the sense of the Senate that the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion, as such action would be contrary to the fundamental principles on which this Nation was founded.”
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), was really just a symbolic measure. It wouldn’t change any law; it wouldn’t cost any money; and it didn’t even mention Trump by name. This was simply a resolution intended to voice support for basic American principles, which suddenly find themselves facing criticism from political extremists.
Ideally, Leahy’s measure would have passed unanimously, especially if Republicans were as outraged by Trump’s idea as the party claims. But that’s not at all what happened.
The good news is, it passed easily. The bad news is, Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) voted against it, as did Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Cruz by proxy.
All four of these guys knew the resolution was going to pass anyway, but they wanted to be on record opposing it. Just because.
Sessions, in particular, spent “nearly 30 minutes on a rambling statement” about the subject before eventually voting against the resolution. This is the same Alabama Republican who refused to condemn Trump’s idea earlier this week, even as others in the party voiced criticism.
Look at the benign language of the resolution again: “It is the sense of the Senate that the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion, as such action would be contrary to the fundamental principles on which this Nation was founded.” Four Senate Republicans today effectively said, “No, I’m not comfortable with this.”
It was heartening to see some Republicans denounce Trump’s radicalism this week, but let’s not pretend there’s GOP unanimity on the matter.
Postscript: The day after Trump announced his right-wing proposal, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out an email to its list, encouraging supporters to “claim” the “perfect gift” – a Trump koozie for $12 – “just in time for the holidays!”