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A week later, GOP lets Trump’s racist ‘death wish’ message slide

A week later, Republicans' silence on Donald Trump's racist "death wish" message, directed at Mitch McConnell, is awfully tough to defend.


The fact that Donald Trump went after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a week ago was not, in and of itself, remarkable. The former president condemns the Kentucky Republican so frequently — he told The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman on the record that McConnell is “a piece of s---” — that the rhetorical offenses barely raise eyebrows anymore.

Part of what made Trump’s attack last week stand out, however, was just how far he was willing to go. As we discussed, the former president whined a bit on his Twitter-like platform about congressional spending packages and the Green New Deal, before concluding that McConnell “has a DEATH WISH.”

For good measure, the same Trump message added, “Must immediately seek help and advise from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!”

This was, of course, a reference to Elaine Chao — who served as Trump’s transportation secretary for four years.

In other words, the former president not only raised the specter of political violence against his own party’s Senate leader, he also published a racist message against the senator’s wife, who happens to have served in Trump’s Cabinet.

The question was not what this told Americans about Trump’s character. We’ve known that answer for quite some time. Instead, the question was how his party might respond to such garbage.

While nearly all congressional Republicans, including those close to McConnell, said literally nothing, one member of Congress stepped up this week to deliver an unambiguous denunciation:

“Former President Trump’s inflammatory and racist attacks directed at Senator McConnell aren’t helpful to the nation or our democracy. Worse yet, they could incite political violence, and the former President knows full well that extremists often view his words as marching orders. While unsurprising, these attacks are not indicative of a leader and clearly set a poor example for future generations of Americans. I strongly condemn these attacks — as should all of my Republican and Democratic colleagues. We need to be better than this.”

That statement came from Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who, among other things, chairs the bipartisan select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

Or put another way, a prominent Democrat defended the Senate Republicans’ leader in ways other Republicans would not.

In fairness, it would be an exaggeration to say literally no one in the GOP spoke up about Trump’s message. Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican who has recently begun telling voters to support Democrats in key races, echoed her colleague from the Jan. 6 committee. The Washington Post noted:

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) on Monday said former president Donald Trump’s recent comments on social media about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “could well cause violence,” and his comments about McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao — who served as a Cabinet secretary under Trump — were “absolutely despicable” and “racist.” But Cheney — who has broken with many in her party in standing up to Trump — said it also is troubling that Republicans have not denounced the former president’s rhetoric. That silence is “unacceptable,” Cheney said during an appearance at Syracuse University.

“Everybody ought to be asked whether that’s acceptable,” the outgoing Wyoming congresswoman said. “And everybody ought to be able to say, ‘No, that is not acceptable.’ They ought to be required to say that.”

It was a sensible position. Seven days after Trump published his ugly missive, we now know it was a sentiment that other Republicans ignored.

Some GOP officials might’ve remained silent because they were paralyzed by fear of Trump and his followers. Others might have been neutralized by self-interest, convinced that doing the right thing would only hurt their careers.

Either way, the former president very likely noticed the lack of pushback, and he’ll interpret his party’s silence as proof that he can keep making comments like these without fear of consequences.