We're not big believers in public officials being responsible for all the bad things other public officials say or do. It's become a too-common political weapon to ask lawmakers to condemn members of their own party, even for behavior that's not representative of anything more than one person's poor decision. But sometimes that behavior is so troubling that our leaders need to stand up and say something.
So it was Sunday when President Donald Trump tweeted a bigoted attack on four Democratic Congresswomen of color, telling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." This despite three of the four women being born in the United States, and the other, Omar, being a U.S. citizen.
"Go back where you came from" is among the worst of racist tropes. It divides us by ethnicity and skin color. It says that even if someone is a citizen or legal immigrant, they are not part of the rest of us. That runs contrary to who we should be as Americans, and if Donald Trump didn't know it when he typed the words, he surely did later when people responded with appropriate outrage. But the same president who referred to Haiti and African nations as "(expletive) countries" and said African visitors would never "go back to their huts" once again doubled down on his racism.
It's dangerous, destructive behavior, and at the least every Republican lawmaker in Congress should declare as much about their president's outburst. That includes North Carolina's most senior leaders, Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. We know this isn't easy politically, especially for Tillis, who is running for reelection and faces a Republican primary challenger in a race to see who can embrace the president more fully. Tillis, of course, has a history of comically wavering on Trump — standing up then backing down on issues that include the Mueller investigation and the president's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border.
North Carolina's lawmakers, however, are far from the only Republicans to struggle with Trump's troubling tendencies. A handful have dared to step forward and criticize the president, only to equivocate when everyone else takes a step back. Most have instead decided that any criticism of Trump — be it for policy or problematic behavior — is not worth the heat that follows.
The result is that the Republican Party is firmly Donald Trump's party now. It's the party where insults and other ugliness are just being "rough around the edges." It's the party where locking legal migrants in crowded, unhealthy cages is acceptable immigration policy. It's the party where it's OK to say racist things so long as the next jobs report is encouraging.
If you don't believe it, listen to the meekness today from Republicans, including those who represent our state. Instead of standing up for who we should be, they're bowing to the worst of who we are.