Have we no Republicans with any conscience to declare?

Have we no Republicans with any conscience to declare?
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On June 1, 1950, a few months after Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) claimed, without evidence, that 205 State Department employees were “known communists,” Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine), made a speech on the floor of the United States Senate. A first-term senator (whose seat is now held by Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGideon holds 3-point lead over Collins in new poll The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - One week out, where the Trump, Biden race stands The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Justice Barrett joins court; one week until Election Day MORE) and a staunch anti-communist, Smith declared: “Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism.”

Smith deemed it “high time that we all stop being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques — techniques that if continued unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life.”

Sen. McCarthy mocked Smith and the handful of Republican colleagues who endorsed her “Declaration of Conscience” as “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs.” But Margaret Chase Smith had the last laugh. The United States Senate censured McCarthy in 1954. By all accounts, her “Declaration” was courageous — and prescient. 


In 2020, a Republican “Declaration of Conscience” is long overdue. Four developments in the last month alone underscore the clear and present danger President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE poses to “basic principles of Americanism.”

1) In several appeals to “suburban housewives,” Trump has blown hard into the racist dog whistle he has used throughout his presidency. Referring to a 2015 initiative requiring local governments to address patterns of segregation in zoning Trump declared, “Your home will go down in value and crime rates will rapidly rise… [and your community] will “go to hell.” Suburban housewives, he added, were “thrilled” that he ended “the long running program where low-income housing would invade their neighborhood. Biden would install it, in a bigger neighborhood, with Corey [sic] Booker in charge.”

2) Using tactics similar to those he used to legitimize the “birther conspiracy” against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWall Street backed Biden campaign with million in 2020 cycle: report Obama, Biden to campaign together in Michigan The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tech execs testify on platforms' liability MORE, Trump spread false claims that Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump fights for battleground Arizona Biden to air 90-minute radio programs targeting Black voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's big battleground | Trump and Harris hit the trail in Arizona | Turnout surges among new voters MORE (D-Calif.) is not eligible to run for vice president because her parents were immigrants when she was born (in California) and may have “owed their allegiance to a foreign power or powers.” As he indicated he would not “pursue” the allegations, Trump told reporters they came from “a highly qualified, very talented lawyer” and should have been “checked out” before Biden selected Harris.

3) Following the victory of an avid conspiracy theory follower in a Republican primary for a Congressional seat in Georgia, Trump was all thumbs-up. Marjorie Taylor Greene is a supporter of QAnon, a conspiracy theory with extremist followers the FBI considers a domestic terrorism threat. She agrees with the fundamental QAnon tenet that there is a global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles pulling the strings of government. Trump praised her as a “future Republican star” who “is strong on everything.”

4) Trump continues to push the claim that widespread use of mail-in ballots, a practice many states have used without any evidence of fraud, will result in “the most rigged election in history” — even though he has mailed in his own ballots for years and has exempted Florida from his critique because it has a Republican governor. Nor has Trump objected to his campaign sending absentee ballot request forms with his picture on them to voters in North Carolina. Yet he has opposed increased funding for the United States Postal Service because it might make voting by mail more feasible, and he has repeatedly refused to say that he will accept the results of the 2020 presidential election.


To date, the response of Republican office holders to these developments has been shrugs and silence. 

Does every Republican in the House and Senate, except for Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe spectre of pension failures haunts this election The Memo: Five reasons why Trump could upset the odds Will anyone from the left realize why Trump won — again? MORE (R-Utah), approve of Trump’s race-baiting, character assassination and sabotaging of elections?

Where are the likes of Margaret Chase Smith when we so desperately need them?

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of "Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century."