Our opinion: Scott stands up to Trump; is it time to walk away?

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It's been disquieting to witness Republicans who should know better remaining silent on President Donald J. Trump's most recent open display of racism and misogyny. It's been mindboggling to see some supporting his hateful words.

With that in mind, Gov. Phil Scott's public rebuke of Trump on Wednesday is welcome, even if he stopped short of taking his criticism to its logical conclusion and leaving the party.

Trump, speaking of U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said Sunday on Twitter that the four congresswomen of color "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe" and they should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Five days later, Scott, at his media availability at the Statehouse, spoke out.

"I find these statements offensive, racist and certainly not what we expect from the leader of the greatest country in the world," Scott said. "Words matter and we've seen the same rhetoric used throughout history to discriminate, degrade and divide."

"I'm not trying to lead the GOP on this. I'm trying to stand up for what I believe," he added. "I think we all have an obligation to step up and call it out for what it is."

Scott joins two of his fellow Republican governors, Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, in criticizing Trump's statements.

Trump's tweets represented an historic low moment for the presidency. But that did not stand long as his new low; Trump then turned his full focus on Rep. Omar, who came to this nation as a refugee from Somalia when she was 6 years old.

Rep. Omar was freely elected by the voters of the Minnesota 5th Congressional District with 78 percent of the vote in the general election. Whether she represents that district in Congress is the voters' decision, and no one else's.

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But Rep. Omar does not agree with Trump on anything. Trump, ever the narcissist, conflates opposition to his policies to a lack of patriotism. He's gotten his minions to go along with that misguided logic. And Rep. Omar is black, a woman, and a Muslim — making her, in Trump's eyes, a target.

As if on cue, following Trump's wild, accusatory rant against Omar on Wednesday night in Greensboro, N.C., a crowd of his followers chanted "send her back."

It was as ugly a moment as American politics have ever seen.

Two years ago, when Trump was a candidate for the Republican nomination, party members called him out for bigoted comments. Now, there is largely silence, and it is deafening.

Very few Republicans have been willing to publicly distance themselves from Trump. To his credit, Scott has been among those willing to do so, most notably when he signed gun safety legislation in 2018. But he equivocated somewhat when asked if Trump is a racist.

"I don't know him well enough to know whether they were racist and that's the way he feels," Scott said. "But again, does it really matter? The words are there, so whether it's something he believes or something that he's using for a politically strategy, both are equally bad from my standpoint."

It would have been better if Scott stated the obvious — that Trump is indeed a racist, a fact proven by his words and deeds — and declared himself an independent.

The Republican Party has no credible mandate to lead this country so long as is misled by a race-baiting bully. There's no reason why Scott should wait for the next outrage. Perhaps it's time for him, and for all Republicans who see Trump for who and what he is, to abandon ship.

But this cannot begin and end with Scott. It's up to every other Vermont Republican, from town committees to state representatives and senators and party leaders, to follow the Governor's example and stand for the principles of equality upon which Vermont was founded.

Vermont voters will surely remember next November which of their elected leaders stood tall when the very essence of this country — the idea that all are equal under the law — came under attack.


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