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Steinberg: Courageous within GOP resist ‘danger to the Republic’

The advent of Donald Trump is no unique American phenomenon but the latest symptom of a global retreat from modern values of an interconnected world, columnist Neil Steinberg writes. | AP Photo

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The Houston Chronicle endorsed Richard Nixon. Three times. Not only for his successful runs at the presidency in 1968 and 1972 but his failed bid in 1960, calling him “the better way for Americans.” It supported Ronald Reagan twice, the Bushes four times. It backed Mitt Romney, as you would expect of a Republican newspaper in a Republican city in a Republican state.

On Friday, the Chronicle endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, long before it would normally reveal a preference.

“The Chronicle editorial page does not typically endorse early in an election cycle,” it noted, adding that it is already painfully clear that to support Donald Trump “is to repudiate the most basic notions of competence and capability.” The newspaper continued:

“Any one of Trump’s less-than-sterling qualities — his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance — is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, ‘I alone can fix it,’ should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.”

True, on rare occasions the Chronicle has supported Democrats — Johnson over Goldwater in 1964, Obama over McCain 44 years later. But their defection from the party is part of a significant Republican refusal to back its own candidate, one that deserves attention and applause. Because for patriotic Americans who care about their country, just the fact that Trump is running is profoundly sad, and says something dire about the judgment of our fellow citizens. We need a boost, and these GOP profiles in courage will be remembered long after the peril is past.

Odd. The right is so repulsed by the thought of imitating Europe regarding social programs. Yet the advent of Trump is no unique American phenomenon but the latest symptom of a global retreat from modern values of an interconnected world.

OPINION

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“From Warsaw to Washington, the political divide that matters is less and less between left and right, and more and more between open and closed,” noted The Economist in a recent issue. “This is the gravest risk to the free world since communism. Nothing matters more than countering it.”

And while Democratic convention was forcefully mapping out its case — the political observer in me marvels that the Republicans could yield both optimism and patriotism to their foes, embracing Trump’s dark, dismal view of America — it is encouraging to see Republican stalwarts standing up to place their country above partisan concerns.

It’s quite a list: George H.W. Bush. His sons, George and Jeb. Mitt Romney, showing a fire and principle that might have made him president had he shown it in 2012. Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson wrote in the Washington Post, “I will not vote for Donald Trump. I will not cast a write-in vote. I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton, with the hope that she can bring Americans together to do the things necessary to strengthen our economy, our environment and our place in the world. To my Republican friends: I know I’m not alone.”

This is not gloating. Trump might win. Some days I fear he will win. His bluster finds a ready audience with disillusioned voters. The Brexit vote — in which Great Britain dropped out of the European Union to spite its best economic interests — means nobody can be secure about the outcome of this election. If Trump had run as a Democrat, as he well could have, I like to think I’d switch over to support whoever is running against him.

Would I? You never know. You never know how bravely you will respond to a crisis until it happens. During calmer times, we gaze back at the turning points of history and wonder, “What would I have done? Would I have resisted?” This election is such a turning point. The danger is clear. “This,” to repeat The Economist’s warning, “is the gravest risk to the free world since communism. Nothing matters more than countering it.”

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