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Port: Republicans can't just walk away from Trump, they must turn on him

"It's going to be painful, but Republicans can't just turn away from Trump. Republicans have to lead their people away from Trumpism and the morass of conspiracy-addled grievance and unvarnished racism it has become," Rob Port writes.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump announces he will run for president in 2024 at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach
Former U.S. President Donald Trump announces that he will once again run for the presidency in 2024 during an event Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
Johnathan Ernst / Reuters
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MINOT, N.D. — Nick Fuentes, a recent Mar-a-Lago dinner guest of disgraced former President Donald Trump, has described Jewish people as "cookies."

Because they're baked in an oven .

It disgusts me to repeat that slur, even in condemnation, but it's important for you to know what sort of person we're dealing with. Fuentes rose to notoriety after attending the infamous "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has since gathered to himself a cult-like online following built around antisemitism and white supremacy.

"I really like this guy," Trump reportedly said , during the dinner, to his other guest Kanye West. "He gets me."

Trump is now trying to distance himself from Fuentes, claiming he didn't know who this person was, but that's baloney. Fuentes named his primary platform, a livestream show, after one of Trump's own slogans: "America First." And other Trump-world figures, notably Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green and Rep. Paul Gosar , have spoken at events put on by Fuentes.

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Fuentes is a known quantity. Trump knew precisely who he was dealing with, despite the spin coming from MAGA-world devotees. Besides, Trump absolutely knew that he was dining with West, himself a notorious anti-Semite . West, who has apparently befriended Fuentes, brought him along to the dinner, but that's no exoneration of Trump.

It's remarkable how we're all supposed to believe that Trump is a sort of political genius, playing some form of four-dimensional political chess that the rest of us are too dense to understand, except when he does something stupid like having a friendly dinner with unrepentant bigots, in which case we're supposed to believe he's some babe in the woods.

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Be that as it may, it's no longer good enough for Republicans to merely move on from Donald Trump. Our Republican leaders, from elected officials to party chairs, must turn against Trumpism.

I'm not talking about necessarily turning against Trump-era policy achievements, many of which represent sound policy, but against Trump himself, who is no longer a defensible figure.

It's long been clear that Trump doesn't really care who his supporters are, as long as they adore him, and that's a problem now that the former president and his devotees in Congress are cavorting with the likes of Fuentes.

For decades conservatives have had to defend their ideology against specious accusations of bigotry from the American left. Now Trump who, ideologically is no conservative but, for better or worse, currently represents the conservative brand, is associating himself with literal bigots.

Is this what you want, my fellow conservatives? To become what the left accuses us of being?

On the campaign trail this year, Sen. John Hoeven touted Trump's endorsement. Rep. Kelly Armstrong has told me that if Trump was on the ballot again in 2024 he'd vote for him. Sen. Kevin Cramer has long been one of Trump's most outspoken defenders. Behind the scenes many Republicans speak to me of their weariness of Trump. They wish he'd go away, but they're afraid to say that publicly because they don't want to invite the wrath of the Republican base.

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And I get it. But pandering to the base isn't leadership. Certainly, cowering in fear of the base isn't either.

Sometimes it's incumbent upon a leader to show the people the way. To represent to them the things they should want in a leader.

It's going to be painful, but Republicans can't just turn away from Trump. Republicans have to lead their people away from Trumpism and the morass of conspiracy-addled grievance and unvarnished racism it has become.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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