While local Republican congressmen missed an opportunity to take the moral high ground on the issue of race and the national discourse during President Donald Trump’s mudslinging exchange with Democratic rivals, Cambria County’s GOP chief laments the trend of divisive rhetoric over debates on the issues.
“What goes on in politics these days is that the extremists control the narrative,” Cambria Republican Party Chairwoman Jackie Kulback said.
She added: “I think we need to focus on policy and not on personal attacks. Every person needs to look in the mirror and decide where they stand.”
Their milktoast reactions to Trump’s latest controversies suggest U.S. Reps. John Joyce and Glenn Thompson stand with a party leader who embraces racist comments and national division.
The centerpiece of Trump’s rant was that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley – all presidential wannabees – “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.”
Trump tweeted: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”
Truth is that Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley were all born in the “corrupt” United States, while Omar is a naturalized citizen whose family fled war-torn Somalia when she was a child.
All are women of color. Perhaps that caused the president’s confusion.
The Democrats have used unprofessional and inflammatory language – sometimes even profanities – in their verbal battles with the president.
So there’s plenty of criticism to go around in this political sewage storm.
It would be refreshing to hear our GOP lawmakers challenge their leader on his personal-attacks-over-discussion-of-the-issues style – for the good of Pennsylvania and the nation.
But they’ve got their political wagons firmly hitched to Trump – regardless of his immaturity and stoking of discord and division.
After the president drew criticism for declaring that the four congresswomen should “go home,” Thompson, Joyce and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey took the “yeah but” approach – offering limp responses to Trump’s behavior before quickly pivoting to use the moment to challenge those colleagues for their liberal or socialist stances.
What do I want? For these white men to openly oppose racism and sexism – despite their leader’s actions and comments, and despite the risk of losing a few votes.
A hyper-liberal candidate will not win the 2020 presidential election. But racism and personal attacks have no place in that process.
And doing the right thing and maintaining your values are not mutually exclusive – unless racism is one of your values.
At the local level, Kulback did not directly challenge the president. Cambria’s GOP leaders have dubbed their turf “Trump County,” after all.
But she did go this far: “Do I wish he would have used different words? Yes.” – which is miles beyond anything our elected federal lawmakers would offer.
Kulback said she has experienced pushback from the fringes of both parties for her willingness to maintain friendships and work on local projects with Democrats.
“There are some people who don’t have the maturity to handle it,” she said, “but you’re hopeful you can do something to change their view of the world.”
Of the national debate, Kulback said: “In Cambria County, right now we’re focused on our county row-office races.
“What’s going on at the national level hasn’t trickled down. There’s so much blustering going on that I think people are tuning it out. ... My focus at the county level is getting the best people elected.”
Kulback voiced optimism – well, at least expressed some faith – that sensitivity and sensibility will eventually quell the turmoil at the national level.
That might have to wait until after the 2020 elections.
“Middle-of-the-road Republicans tune out the rhetoric from the far left and the far right,” Kulback said.
“As a committee, we just feel for the insensitivity,” she said. “We need apologies from all sides. But what we can worry about is our portion of the world. I just hope – and I do believe – that there’s a middle ground somewhere.”
Let’s find it before all that sewage gets too deep to escape.