Values matter and Trump has crossed the line. What should Republicans do?

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on June 13, 2016

Many of us are familiar with the story of the frog who finds itself in a pot of water that’s slowly being heated. In the beginning, the frog doesn’t foresee what is about to happen. As the water increases in temperature, the frog realizes that it needs to escape but can’t, and ultimately the frog faces its demise. This story is a metaphor for what is happening to the Republican Party as it tries to deal with Donald Trump.

As Trump’s rhetoric became increasingly outrageous during the Republican Party primaries, his value system became clear. Trump has verbally attacked women on numerous occasions and has made fun of disabled people. He has broad-brushed Mexican illegal immigrants as criminals, and said that he would get Mexico to pay to build a wall separating our two countries.

The perpetrator of the horrific terrorist attack in Orlando on June 12 was of the Muslim faith and the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Hopefully, Trump will remind everyone that it is wrong to broad-brush an entire religion for the horrible acts of a few.

Trump has a history of partially paying the contactors who worked on his properties, not meeting the obligations of his companies’ construction agreements. His response to these contractors is “go sue me.” Smaller contractors do not have the financial staying power to take Trump to court. His companies have been accused many times of not paying hourly workers according to federal employment law.

Trump has criticized American-born U.S. federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, presiding over the Trump University lawsuit case, claiming that the judge has a conflict of interest because of his Mexican heritage. The suit asserts that Trump University defrauded students. Trump, due to his positions on Mexican immigration and construction of a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico, wants the judge to recuse himself.

To many Republicans, Trump has crossed the line with his criticism of Judge Curiel and has violated a fundamental American value – respect for each other’s heritage. Most Americans can trace their heritage to places other than the U.S. His personal criticism of Judge Curiel undermines the judiciary. I personally feel Trump has crossed the line several times in violation of our American value system. There is even talk among some within the Republican Party of dumping Trump at the Republican National Convention. No path forward bodes well for the Party.

The value system of our leaders matters and Trump does not represent the values nor has the temperament of the individual we want leading the United States.

During the Republican primaries, the more outrageous the things he said, the more his popularity went up within segments of the Republican Party, and the more delegates he captured. This is noteworthy, since Trump was mostly silent on fiscal and broad social policy issues, during a time when Republican primary candidates talk to the voters about their positions and tout their conservative credentials. Not Trump.

Trump’s positions, on the infrequent occasion when he has made statements concerning economic and social policy, indicate he does not hold true conservative views, which are foundational beliefs of the Republican Party. Yet, he has managed to defeat all 11 of his primary election campaign opponents, and is the presumptive presidential nominee leading up to the Republican National Convention in August.

In an op-ed commentary on June 11 in the Wall Street Journal, headlined, “Why Trumpkins want their country back,” Joseph Epstein writes, “So great is the frustration of Americans who do not believe in progressivist ideas, who see them as ultimately tearing the country apart, that they are ready to turn in their near hopelessness, to a man of Donald Trump’s patently low quality.”

What are these “progressivist” ideas? Epstein lists a few: multiculturalism, identity politics and victimhood. Little do the Trumpkins realize that the changes Trump would bring may not address these issues, but undermine the values that this country was built on.

Many Republican politicians are not quite sure how to deal with the Trump issue. If they support Trump, they may lose votes because Trump is not a true conservative, and many voters disdain his value system. However, if Republican Party candidates don’t support Trump, they may lose votes for abandoning their party’s presidential nominee.

Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, is one example of someone who faces such a dilemma. At first, Ryan withheld his endorsement of Trump because he was not sufficiently conservative. After meeting with Trump, Ryan then issued a tepid endorsement. Within a week, Trump made his comments about the Mexican ancestry of Judge Curiel, igniting a firestorm of criticism. Many Republican candidates are now trying to distance themselves from Trump’s remarks.

So, what should Ryan and other Republican Party candidates do? Should they take a deep breath and support their party’s nominee for president, even if doing so is distasteful, and violates their own personal values? Or, should they take the high road of integrity, do the honorable thing and publicly state that criticism of a federal judge’s heritage and Trump’s other beliefs and business practices are antithetical to American values, and that they cannot support Trump? I know what I would do – the honorable thing. I am a life-long Republican, and my conscience and value system will not allow me to support Trump for president.

Stan Silverman is the founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a writer, speaker and advisor to C-suite executives on business issues and on cultivating a leadership culture within their organizations. Stan is Vice Chairman of the Board of Drexel University and a director of Friends Select School and Faith in the Future. He is the former President and CEO of PQ Corporation. Follow: @StanSilverman. Connect: Website:

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