Juan Williams: Republicans flee Trump

Nineteen House Republicans have announced they will be leaving Congress.

Republicans are now fleeing Congress at a similar rate as they did in advance of the 2018 midterms when Democrats captured the House majority by winning 41 seats.

Polling released last week suggests Republican voters — and their politicians on Capitol Hill — are increasingly exhausted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE’s lies, corruption and bullying.

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Fifty-six percent of Americans told the Associated Press poll they would not describe Trump as “honest.”

That’s not just Democrats calling out Trump.

Almost half of Republicans can’t say that Trump is honest.

To be precise, only 53 percent of Republicans say the word "honest" describes Trump “very or extremely well,” according to the poll by The Associated Press–NORC.

That leaves a lot of Republicans to live with a painful reality.

They know Trump, a man they regard as less than fully honest, is likely to be at the top of the 2020 ticket for a Republican Party that advertises itself as the home of evangelicals, American tradition and family values.

And there is another poll result showing why congressional Republicans are looking for the exit.

The same poll found 61 percent of Americans think Trump has “little or no respect for the country’s democratic institutions and traditions.”

Remember, Trump is the leader of a party that loves to talk about the Founding Fathers and defending the Constitution and American traditions.

By the way, 26 percent of law-and-order loving Republicans admit in the poll that Trump does not care about the nation’s constitutional-based government.

And get this — 33 percent, a third of Republicans, said Trump does not make them “proud.”

This implosion of Republican self-image, their eroding view of themselves as guardians of American values with Trump in the White House, helps explain why so many Republicans are leaving Congress.

A month ago, The Washington Post described the number of Republicans choosing to retire as “staggering.” By their count “41 House Republicans have left national politics or announced they won’t seek reelection in the nearly three years since Trump took office.”

Longtime GOP Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive MORE (Ore.) became the 19th House Republican to announce his retirement last week.

Recently, Walden was twice targeted by Trump’s MAGA mob on conservative social media. First, he was cursed for his lack of loyalty to Trump for opposing the president’s grab of military funding to pay for a wall on the Mexican border.

Then Walden was lashed for condemning Trump’s racist tweet suggesting that four Democratic congresswomen of color “go back” where they came from, even though three of the four were born in the U.S.

In Trump’s own words, Republicans who criticize him are “human scum.”

In the Senate, where Republicans are in the majority, this battle for the soul of the party is also pushing conservatives with a conscience to the exits.

For example, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Hillicon Valley: Google extending remote work policy through July 2021 | Intel community returns final Russia report to Senate committee after declassification | Study finds election officials vulnerable to cyberattacks Intel community returns final Russia report volume to Senate after declassification review MORE (R-N.C.) has already announced he will retire rather than run again in 2022.

In May, Trump criticized Burr for issuing a subpoena for the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.Don John TrumpTwitter limits Donald Trump Jr.'s account after sharing coronavirus disinformation South Dakota governor flew with Trump on Air Force One after being exposed to coronavirus: report Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle MORE to testify about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

At that time, The New York Times described Burr as facing an “extraordinary pressure campaign ... forcing [GOP] senators to choose between their loyalty to the Intelligence Committee and to the president’s family.”

Four other veteran GOP senators are already choosing to quit rather than run on the 2020 ticket with Trump: Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive MORE (Tenn.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziChamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Republicans battle over COVID-19 package's big price tag Conservative group launches ad campaign for Rep. Roger Marshall in Kansas Senate race MORE (Wyo.), Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonWNBA players wear 'Vote Warnock' shirts in support of Loeffler Democratic challenger Trump and Biden tied in Georgia: poll Biden campaign staffs up in Georgia MORE (Ga.) and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEstablishment-backed Marshall defeats Kobach in Kansas GOP Senate primary The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill Five primary races to watch on Tuesday MORE (Kan.).

Then there are five Republicans who want to stay in the Senate but find that being called on to blindly defend Trump’s behavior is creating the toughest reelection fights of their political lives: Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsUnemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Obama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (Maine), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstIowa Senate candidate raises 2K after dog goes viral Obama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP MORE (Iowa), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project Trump signs major conservation bill into law 300 green groups say Senate has 'moral duty' to reject Trump's public lands nominee MORE (Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona McSally defeats primary challenger for GOP Senate nod in Arizona Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions MORE (Ariz.), and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection MORE (N.C.).

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Meanwhile, Trump’s most open GOP critic in the Senate, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyNRCC poll finds McBath ahead of Handel in Georgia Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (Utah), is regularly savaged by Trump’s media defenders. Rush Limbaugh, the talk show host, told listeners without any proof that Romney is working with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (D-Calif.) and had “assured her there was Republican support to remove Trump.”

That kind of political beating keeps most congressional Republicans from breaking with Trump, but it can’t stop others from leaving.

There are glimmers of courage, however, with Senate Republicans exhibiting some conscience in the last month.

A high level of congressional Republican criticism also led Trump to back down on plans to help himself financially by holding an international summit at his struggling resort in Doral, Fla.

“I think there was a lot of concern,” Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeHouse approves .3 trillion spending package for 2021 Multiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert House panel advances health bill with B in emergency COVID-19 funds MORE (R-Okla.), a member of Republican leadership, told The New York Times.

But moments of conscience are the exception for congressional Republicans in the Trump era.

Three years into Trump, the options for Republicans who tire of his lies, his bullying and his claim to “great and unmatched wisdom” remain painfully clear — say nothing or head for the door.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.