Wisconsin GOP kicks Nehlen out — so why not Trump?

Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Images

Wisconsin Republicans have decided that enough is enough with Paul Nehlen, who has frequently expressed anti-Semitic and racist views on Twitter and is running to replace Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. The state party is officially removing Nehlen from their party and returning a portion of his paid dues (and donating the remainder) following his recent suspension from Twitter for violating the platform’s policies on hateful conduct.

“Paul Nehlen is not a member of the Republican Party of Wisconsin,” spokesman Alec Zimmerman said. “Nehlen and his ideas have no place in the Republican Party.”

Nehlen was permanently suspended from Twitter this week for sharing a racist image of Meghan Markle, the fiancee of the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry, with an image of “Cheddar Man” superimposed over her face.

“Cheddar Man” is an ancient Briton, more than 9,000 years old, who scientists say was likely dark skinned (Markle has described herself as a “confident mixed-race woman”). The image posted by Nehlen was decried by millions, and he made international headlines for his grotesque “commentary.”

Nehlen also attacked Jewish members of the media late last month by posting a list of his media critics, including their personal contact information, and claiming that the vast majority of them were Jewish.

Wisconsin Republicans made the right choice in removing Nehlen from being an official member of the party — although they still can’t stop him from running in the primary against Speaker Ryan and claiming that he is a Republican. The stand against bigotry, hatred, and misogyny was appropriate, and handled in a dignified way.

But why stop there? Why won’t Republicans in Wisconsin condemn other party members who hold similar viewpoints, namely President Donald Trump? His own expressions of bigotry against people of color are obvious and numerous:

  • Just last month, he said that America had too many immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa (which are majority black or Latino) — and not enough from countries like Norway (which is majority white). The racism there was so blatant that major U.S. news networks and world leaders said outright that the comments, and even the president himself, were “racist.”
  • Just last year, he stood up for white supremacists, saying “both sides” were to blame for violence that resulted in the murder of activist Heather Heyer at the hands of a neo-Nazi.
  • He’s insisted that the Central Park Five, a group of black men who were falsely accused of rape and murder as teens, still deserved the death penalty even after they had been exonerated.

And in this #MeToo moment, let’s not forget that Trump has repeatedly made degrading comments about women, that he literally bragged on tape about committing sexual assault, and that 19 women have also accused Trump of sexually harassing or assaulting them.

If all of this had come out in the last few months, and if Trump were running in the First Congressional District primary rather than Nehlen, it seems likely that the state GOP would take the same measures to distance themselves from him. So why aren’t they doing so now?

If they need one more reason, how about the fact that Trump and Nehlen were pretty buddy-buddy with each other during the 2016 election season, when Nehlen first challenged Ryan for the Congressional seat?

The highest-ranking representative of the Republican party is a self-serving, bigoted individual who has no business being the leader of the free world. He promotes hostile foreign governments while disregarding basic tenets of democracy at home.

Yes, Republicans in Wisconsin did good by distancing themselves from Nehlen. But they would do better, serving as an example for Republicans across the nation, by giving the president the same treatment.

The longer they wait, the more difficult it will be to condemn Trump. Far be it from me to suggest something that would help Republicans — I’m for a more progressive state and nation — but there is still no longer any moral excuse to support him. If Wisconsin Republicans are willing to condemn Nehlen for the good of our state, they ought to do the same to Trump for the good of our country.

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