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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 TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report 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: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Lawmakers urge FCC to assist in effort to rip out, replace suspect network equipment OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight 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 BurrNorth Carolina — still purple but up for grabs North Carolina's Mark Walker expected to announce Senate bid Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report 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 TrumpMost Republicans in new poll say they'd vote for Trump in 2024 President says Trump Jr. doing 'very well' after COVID-19 diagnosis Trump has not prepared a concession speech: report 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 AlexanderCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint We need a college leader as secretary of education As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on MORE (Tenn.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziRepublican Cynthia Lummis wins Wyoming Senate election Bottom line Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection MORE (Wyo.), Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonCollins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Ossoff, Warnock to knock on doors in runoff campaigns Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff MORE (Ga.) and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsTrump's controversial Fed nominee stalled after Senate setback Business groups scramble to forge ties amid race for House Agriculture chair Republicans hold on to competitive Kansas House seat 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 CollinsCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Two more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers MORE (Maine), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Memo: Trump plows ahead with efforts to overturn election More conservatives break with Trump over election claims Peggy Noonan: 'Bogus dispute' by Trump 'doing real damage' MORE (Iowa), Cory GardnerCory GardnerHillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities Democrats vent to Schumer over Senate majority failure MORE (Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol McSally's final floor speech: 'I gave it my all, and I left it all on the field' MORE (Ariz.), and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge North Carolina — still purple but up for grabs Team Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters MORE (N.C.).

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Meanwhile, Trump’s most open GOP critic in the Senate, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyVoters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican Congress set for chaotic year-end sprint Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls 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 PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? 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 report says lawmakers could securely cast remote votes amid pandemic Next Congress expected to have record diversity Native Americans elected to Congress in record numbers this year 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.