OPINION | This country sorely needs leadership after Charlottesville

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When the moral fiber of a nation is at stake, the people cannot rely on a questionable leader to guide them out of darkness into light. The division in our country is so great that the grief that comes as a result of the hate and anger is nearly unbearable. Though some may refute this charge, a great deal of this grief stems from President Trump.

The man started his political career by trying to delegitimize President Obama when he fueled the speculation that our 44th president was not born in America. He was testing the waters for a political career by playing into the darkness of hate and fear, but he didn’t stop there. It would only worsen when he decided to run for president.

As he approached the podium from his glitzy ride down an escalator in the building that proudly boasts his name, he started off by attacking any and all of Hispanic heritage. He was proud and unashamed. This is how he began his presidential campaign.

{mosads}As time went on, many said, “Give him a chance because he will change.” Republicans like Speaker Paul Ryan, someone whom I worked for during the Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have supported Trump, despite it all. They have stood by him despite the dog-whistle politics that have divided the country to the point where white supremacists feel so comfortable with their hatred that they have shed their robes and bared their faces proudly.


The excessiveness of our division was on full display in Charlottesville last weekend. The tragic events should give all of us, especially Republicans who continue to be silent about the shortcomings of the president, great pause for contemplation. Despite the dangers that their own eyes should have easily seen, many within the Republican Party have by and large remained silent. They offer the occasional insufficient rebuke and instead opt for political gains as the country around them crumbles.

Our country is at a new low, and so is the Republican Party. We need our leaders in Congress like Ryan and McConnell to step up and be the voices that our president is incapable of, or refuses, to be. As leaders of both houses in Congress, they must take the mantle and lead when the executive has failed and that time is now.

How many times have we heard pundits on cable news say he will learn to become presidential over time? Well, it’s been eight months since he took office, and nothing about our president has changed. Nearly every day, his administration becomes embroiled with scandal and chaos. Yes, I want him to succeed because whether you like him or not, he is our president. But at some point, it becomes obvious when someone is his own worst enemy, and no matter how much support you give him, he is destined to make the same mistake over and over again.

The president had a unique opportunity to bring this country together on Saturday, and he missed, opting for a lackluster condemnation and refusing to directly callout white supremacy and neo-Nazis. Yet as a candidate he stated, “Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name.” Why couldn’t he do that on Saturday? Why did it take harsh criticism for the president to finally do the right thing? This is someone who has never had a problem going after people directly on Twitter, but when it mattered most, he failed.

The imagery of white supremacists and neo-Nazis yelling racial epithets and making chilling salutes should be relegated to the context of history books, museums and documentaries. Yet in 2017, we see these people alive and well, without their hoods and emboldened because of our president. They feel that now is their time for one last effort to revive their lost cause, and when the president takes 40 hours to condemn them, it only adds further legitimacy in their eyes to continue their cause.

The president can’t control the actions of individuals — no one can — but from his quest with birtherism, to the racial innuendos and dog-whistle politics throughout his presidential campaign, to his horrible initial response to the tragedy in Charlottesville, he has contributed to the heated environment that now exists in our country.

The expectation should be that our leaders, and specifically the commander in chief, make every effort to unite us, just as presidents in the past have done during great times of chaos and uncertainty. But should be obvious to everyone that we can’t rely on President Trump, and that is an unfortunate reality. We have to do it alone, and perhaps that is the only way that love, understanding and compassion will trump hate.

Shermichael Singleton is a CNN political commentator and a Republican political strategist who has worked on the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Ben Carson. Follow him on Twitter @Shermichael_.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Barack Obama Ben Carson Charlottesville civil rights Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Paul Ryan Politics Protests United States
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