This morning, in a remarkable series of tweets, Steve Schmidt renounced his membership in the Republican Party, calling it “corrupt, indecent and immoral.” Schmidt was the campaign strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and worked for dozens of other GOP candidates including George W. Bush. For him, the detention of children away for their parents was the last straw. Tribalists will denounce him as a RINO. Intelligent Republicans should listen to him closely.
Schmidt is just the latest of a number of high profile Republicans who have called for Trump to end the policy of separating parents from their children. Former First Lady Laura Bush also called the policy “cruel and immoral.” Thirteen Republican US Senators sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling on him to end the policy. Neither of North Carolina’s senators, Richard Burr or Thom Tillis, signed the letter.
Now, is the time for Republicans to show courage, not cower from their base. Nobody should expect Burr or Tillis to leave the GOP but they can put restraints on a policy that’s hurting our country’s standing in the world and lessening our ability to call out other countries that abuse human rights. Burr, in particular, needs to take the lead. He’s the senior senator and he’s said he’s not running again. Tillis, to his credit, made a statement that “We should not be separating children migrants from their families,” but he didn’t sign onto the letter and hasn’t signed onto any of the bills floating around that would end the practice.
The Republican base defends the practice, arguing that people arrested for breaking the law are separated from their children all of the time. However, those people are also released on bail or on their own recognizance and their children aren’t locked up, too. Even if we’re arresting people for committing the crime of entering the country illegally, we’re charging them with a misdemeanor for a first offense. If we took children away from parents who were arrested for crimes like hunting on a wildlife refuge, also a misdemeanor, Trump’s base would be in an uproar.
We need to see courage from the GOP, not the tribalism that’s affected both parties. Not everyone needs to leave the party, but leaders like Thom Tillis and Richard Burr should take action instead of just issuing statements. The uproar will probably do serious damage the GOP in November if something’s not done. The opposition is too loud and support for the policy is too soft. C’mon, Senator Burr. C’mon Senator Tillis. Show us leadership, not political gamesmanship. If they do, Democrats and progressives should applaud them, not criticize them for too little, too late.