Steven R. Rothman Guest Columnist
August 13, 2016-
The Star Ledger
Thank you, Mr. Trump.
I served in Congress for 16 years and often wondered about many of my Republican friends there.
Despite their personal warmth, I wondered if their strident assertions against government handouts and failures, childlike Democrats, voter fraud and a liberal-caused culture of victims weren't just overstated and hypocritical, but destructive to America.
You see, while they were beating their chests about the government's perceived misfeasance, Republican majorities in both houses of Congress continued giving more tax cuts to the wealthiest, failing to enact tax reform, refusing to invest in America's crumbling infrastructure and blaming the "others" in our society.
I couldn't understand the basis on which they pursued their policies -- which they said were driven by The People. After all, the vast majority of Americans support tax reform, comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship, investment in our neglected transportation network and a more tolerant, welcoming attitude to our newest Americans. They know that in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent in America.
I thought that eventually Republicans would move in the direction of the American People on these issues.
Then you came along, Mr. Trump.
At first you had the support of many of my Republican and Independent friends, albeit after their first choices had been eliminated in the Republican primary. They just couldn't vote for Hillary Clinton.
They let slide your "crooked Hillary" remarks. They looked past your having called Barack Obama a non-native. They even closed their eyes and ears to the coarse, vulgar nature of your lifestyle.
They ignored your history of draft dodging -- even when you had the gall to say that Sen. John McCain wasn't a hero.
They were startled by your call to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to ban all people who observe the Muslim faith from entering our country. But they just held their breath.
Then, you crossed a most fundamental line, one too many times.
You revealed, in a way that few thoughtful people could ignore anymore, your truly callous, cruel, bigoted, selfish,dangerously ignorant and un-American self.
Ironically enough, it was due to your attack on immigrant Muslim parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan.
Yes, it was your attack on the Gold Star Khan parents, who are ever-grieving the loss of their heroic son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died defending our country. This turned out to be the tipping point for so many Republicans and Independents.
The reason is simple: My Republican and Independent friends' shared reverence for our Constitution was, in the end, too powerful.
Its guarantee of an individual's freedom from persecution because of their religion, political beliefs, statements, or personal associations, as well as the implicit requirement of tolerance toward those not like each of us, is what makes America truly exceptional.
It is our reliance on that covenant, as well as the willingness of so many of our brave servicemen and women to die defending it, that allows Americans the wish to be so productive, to play by the rules and to share the results of their efforts for themselves and the general welfare.
That is why we live in America, the most-desired destination for people who love freedom.
As I expressed when our country elected Obama: Having him as president would not only change the way the world sees America, but how Americans see each other. He, Michelle, Sasha and Malia, have started that process.
So too, in an ironic twist of fate, your freedom-denying bigotry expressed against so many Americans, including the courageous and articulate Khan parents, have given the magnificent and splendidly diverse, hardworking and America-loving people here a reason to begin to look upon each other no longer with fear and suspicion, but with courtesy, tolerance and gratitude.
Now, thanks to you Mr. Trump, so many more Americans understand that voting for you would be the corruption and ultimate destruction of all the hopes and values that our Founders wished for us.
Regrettably, most Republican members of Congress are still endorsing you.
Steven R. Rothman was a Democratic U.S. representative from New Jersey from 1997 to 2013.