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Trump’s ‘vermin’ talk creates test for GOP, which it’s failing

As Donald Trump embraces eliminationist rhetoric, he's created a test for the Republican Party. At least for now, it’s failing that test spectacularly.


It was early last month when Donald Trump used anti-immigrant rhetoric he hadn’t used before, telling a conservative outlet that undocumented immigration is “poisoning the blood of our country.” A New York Times report noted soon after that the language echoed “white supremacy and the racial hatreds of Adolf Hitler.”

More recently, Trump has vowed to “root out” Marxists and communists. A Washington Post analysis noted, “The idea that the German government was being haplessly overtaken by Marxists and those who must be rooted out — as Trump has suggested is happening in the United States — also coursed through Hitler’s commentary.”

As for Trump’s insistence that Americans he doesn’t like pose a “threat from within,” the Post’s analysis added, “This was also a theme often promoted by Hitler.”

But it was the Republican’s Veterans Day message, in which he condemned some Americans as “vermin within the confines of our Country,” that was the least subtle of all. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an NYU historian, told the Post that “calling people ‘vermin’ was used effectively by Hitler and Mussolini to dehumanize people and encourage their followers to engage in violence.”

Pressed for a response, the former president’s political operation came up with a doozy. The New York Times reported on Team Trump’s discomfort with those noting the Nazi parallels:

“Those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome,” a campaign spokesman, Steven Cheung, said, “and their sad, miserable existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House.”

Evidently, Cheung initially said that Trump would crush their “entire existence,” which the spokesperson amended to say that Trump would crush their “sad, miserable existence.”

As if the clarification made the quote more benign.

The former president and his team could’ve taken the opportunity to walk back his eliminationist rhetoric. Instead, they leaned into the notion that Trump would return to power and “crush” his critics.

Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas noted, “Even worse than Trump stealing talking points from history’s worst tyrants is the crushing GOP silence.”

It’s an important point. As Rachel explained on last night’s show, there’s no bar association that can pull Trump’s law license, or media outlet that can cancel his program, but there is an institution that could intervene as Trump embraces the rhetoric of authoritarians and notorious fascists.

That institution is the Republican Party, which the 2024 frontrunner intends to lead and represent. Trump has created a test for that party, and at least for now, it’s failing that test spectacularly.

Indeed, on the latest episode of “Meet the Press,” NBC’s Kristen Welker asked Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel whether she’s comfortable with Trump’s latest rhetorical offensive. The party leader dodged.

To be fair, a handful of party voices — former Rep. Liz Cheney and former RNC Chair Michael Steele, for example — showed no qualms about condemning Trump’s eliminationist rhetoric, but the public saw no similar pushback from the party’s presidential candidates or Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The less the party defends American principles, the more complicit Republicans become as Trump tries to replace those principles with something dangerous.