When Donald Trump failed to single out and denounce Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, and their allies Sunday, even after they marched by torchlight through an American city, where one among them ran down an anti-racist protester, I noted the historic failure of presidential leadership—a failure underscored by the praise that white supremacist leaders heaped on his approach—and called on Congress to step into the breach, reasserting the nation’s conscience by censuring the president.
In the days that followed, Trump buckled to widespread pressure to single out the white-supremacist groups, naming them in a statement that he read from a teleprompter. But he subsequently declared, in a combative, unscripted press conference Tuesday, that there were some good people on both sides of the Charlottesville protest, implying that good people marched alongside swastikas and KKK members.
A formal censure became even more necessary.
And Wednesday, a group of House Democrats produced a censure resolution against President Trump.
Its full text:
Censuring and condemning President Donald Trump.
August 18, 2017
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Mr. NADLER, Ms. WATSON COLEMAN, and Ms. JAYAPAL submitted the following resolution, which was referred to the Committee on _______;
Censuring and condemning President Donald Trump.
Whereas on August 11, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, a gathering of white supremacists, including neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members, and other alt-Right, white nationalist groups, marched through the streets with torches as part of a coordinated ‘Unite the Right’ rally spewing racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred;
Whereas on August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, a car driven by James Alex Fields, Jr. rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 20 others;
Whereas President Donald Trump’s immediate public comments rebuked “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and failed to specifically condemn the ‘Unite the Right’ rally or cite the white supremacist, neo-Nazi gathering as responsible for actions of domestic terrorism;
Whereas on August 15, 2017, President Donald Trump held a press conference at Trump Tower where he reasserted that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and attempted to create a moral equivalency between white supremacist, KKK, neo-Nazi groups and those counter-protesting the ‘Unite the Right’ rally;
Whereas President Donald Trump has surrounded himself with, and cultivated the influence of, senior advisers and spokespeople who have long histories of promoting white nationalist, alt-Right, racist and anti-Semitic principles and policies within the country;
Whereas President Donald Trump has provided tacit encouragement and little to no denunciation of white supremacist groups and individuals who promote their bigoted, nationalist ideology and policies;
Whereas President Donald Trump has failed to provide adequate condemnation and assure the American people of his resolve to opposing domestic terrorism:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) does hereby censure and condemn President Donald Trump for his inadequate response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017, his failure to immediately and specifically name and condemn the white supremacist groups responsible for actions of domestic terrorism, for reasserting that “both sides” were to blame and excusing the violent behavior of participants in the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, and for employing people with ties to white supremacist movements in the White House, such as Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka; and
(2) does hereby urge President Donald Trump to fire any and all White House advisors who have urged him to cater to the alt-Right movement in the United States.
An overwhelming vote by the House to censure Trump would help to mitigate his inadequate leadership by sending the message he failed to send to white supremacists: that the people are overwhelmingly opposed to their bigotry; that even the most populist branch of government is so adamantly anti-KKK and anti-Nazi that members will censure a president of their own party for delivering anything short of moral clarity. The country would benefit greatly.
This isn’t a perfect resolution; there are likely tweaks that would increase the chance of Republican votes without undercutting the benefits to America. It is, however, a good starting point. The GOP can suggest changes or write its own resolution, bearing in mind that the resolution at hand is far better than nothing at all.
As yet, House Republicans have been willing to ally with Trump despite his cozying up to the alt-right, denigrating Mexicans and Muslims, and stoking ethnic anxieties. If they are to redeem themselves in the least, censure or impeachment is necessary. Should they do nothing, history should record that they were complicit in Trumpism.