Though a Navy veteran—and someone for whom I continually pray, in the aftermath of his 2012 stroke—I have very little use for Illinois Senator Mark Kirk’s brand of politics. With the exception of his staunch support for the U.S.-Israel alliance, Kirk flunks pretty much every other litmus test I have for a federal Republican: he is pro-abortion and in favor of federally funding Planned Parenthood, favors marriage redefinition, is brutally hostile to gun rights, is in favor of cronyist boondoggles such as the Export-Import Bank and is more generally not much of a friend of the taxpayer, supports constitutionally dubious federal legislation such as VAWA, and perhaps most damningly, rushed to be a Vichy Republican mouthpiece for the Democrats when he became the first Republican senator to claim that Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Judge Merrick Garland should be given a fair hearing and vote by the Senate.
Indeed, as an Illinois primary voter this past March, I took out my frustration about Kirk by casting a symbolic vote for Kirk’s little-known conservative challenger, James Marter.
And yet today, anti-Trump conservatives should be grateful for Mark Kirk. While Mitch McConnell soils himself in disgrace and Paul Ryan concedes that Trump’s continued assault on native Hoosier Gonzalo Curiel’s Mexican heritage is the “textbook definition of racist” while continuing to support him because his name is not Hillary Clinton, Mark Kirk actually did the right thing today. Faced with the reality that there is no such thing as a “half-endorsement” of the narcissistic vulgarian—either you’re on the Trump Train or you’re off it—and that meaningfully endorsing someone who overtly says “racially toxic” things is necessarily either impossible or positively immoral, Mark Kirk renounced his former vow to support whomever the GOP nominates and thus joined #NeverTrump.
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) June 7, 2016
The online prediction markets currently have Kirk pegged as one of the most likely incumbent Republican senators to lose this cycle, alongside Ron Johnson, and perhaps Kirk thinks this move makes for good politics. But it is also the morally right thing to do. As I tweeted earlier today, recognizing racism and continuing to associate with it is quite possibly a graver moral evil than is failing to recognize actual racism in the first place. Erick touched on a similar theme in his post earlier today:
There is no shame so great as recognizing an evil and choosing to compromise with it. Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant and then it seeks to silence good. We are seeing that with Trump and his supporters who demand tolerance of Trump’s views, mitigation of views, revision of his views, and will consume and silence you once their position in the Party of Lincoln is secure.
All of which makes it important that we continue to praise the righteous actions of those who call out Trump’s dangerous, race-baiting buffoonery for what it is. Perhaps Jeff Flake and other Trump skeptics, such as Mike Lee, will join Ben Sasse as avowed #NeverTrump-ers. But unlike so much of the reneging upon conservative principle that has defined his one term in the U.S. Senate, today Mark Kirk demonstrated sound judgment—and, indeed, also bravery. He did the right thing. Good for him, and may others follow his lead. The more leading Republicans formally disassociate from this demagogic carnival act, the better off the Party of Lincoln will be.