Editor's Note: This column has been updated with more information about the author.
For 10 years I enthusiastically carried the Republican banner: as an activist, as the congressional nominee from New Hampshire’s 2nd District, as a two-term chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, and as a member of the Republican National Committee’s Executive Committee under the leadership of Reince Priebus. I spent those years extolling the virtues of the party of Lincoln, articulating those values that I believe make America the greatest nation on earth: freedom, equality and unlimited opportunity.
Republicans, I daily declared, were best positioned to preserve and expand those foundational American principles.
My heart breaks as I sit here today in the final moments of a slow, three-year realization that the party of Lincoln is nearly dead, consumed by the ugly, destructive conduct of a dishonest, corrupt man who wears the stolen badge of Republicanism, transforming a once-great party into a racist nationalist movement that uses hate and fear to divide and destroy.
Trump uses racism to get power
Last week, the president of this great nation attacked four, constitutionally elected women of color using some of his most hateful, divisive language yet, telling these American citizens to “go back” to the countries they came from.
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Just as they did after Trump’s racist equivalence in the wake of the Charlottesville attacks, white nationalists across the country cheered the president’s Twitter assault on the four congresswomen. Prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer called Trump talk and no action but congratulated him on being able to “win back” a sizable portion of what he called the deluded alt-right with a single tweet.
On Wednesday evening, at a Trump 2020 campaign rally, the president again attacked these congresswomen and reveled in the crowd’s vile chant of “Send her back! Send her back!” He stood on the stage looking every bit the vainglorious narcissist that he is.
This president is engaging in the worst kind of racism. That is, he is using racist language in an attempt to enrage the masses and convince one American that another American is their enemy simply because they are different, and he is doing so to advance a political agenda and personal power.
Republicans must condemn Trump
And, in this moment of hate, when we most need Americans to come together and reject this abhorrent behavior from a president, Republicans in Congress stand largely silent.
At a time when Republicans should be rising up against the revolting rhetoric of this loathsome man, only a bare few have spoken. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas called the attacks “racist and xenophobic” and Ohio Rep. Michael Turner said the president “should apologize.”
But too many Republicans in Congress have made an erroneous calculation that they must stand with Trump — or at least, stand in silence as the president goes off on one racist rant after another — in order to unify the party and increase their chances of electoral success in 2020. In fact, this weak-willed approach will have exactly the opposite effect.
By refusing to speak the truth about this president, Republicans are allowing his hateful rhetoric to define our party for generations to come.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s statement that these tweets were about “socialism vs freedom” was a disgusting and transparent attempt to rebrand vile, racist nationalism into some sort of noble effort. Republicans in Congress who have previously spoken out against Trump’s ugly approach to politics now stand in silent acquiescence, drowning in their own hypocrisy, in a vain and desperate hope that by doing so they will gain some sort of electoral advantage.
Trump is a cancer on America
By defending Trump's efforts to ban immigrants by their faith, place children in cages, target elected women for being minorities, obstruct justice and play with dictators, congressional Republicans make it impossible to argue for good Republican ideas.
By silently turning their heads and looking the other way as an American president feeds the spread of racism in America, they doom our nation to a dark future where such ugliness seeps back into mainstream acceptance.
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By pretending that they can ignore the president and bear no burden for the destruction he causes, Republicans in Congress reveal their own ignorance.
This presidency is a cancer on our republic. Elected Republicans in Congress have a greater responsibility than anyone else to stop its spread, and yet, they stand mute.
It is not possible to be the party of Trump and the party of Lincoln. If Republicans are ever to have any chance at all of reclaiming our mantle as the party of Lincoln — the party of freedom and unlimited opportunity — we must fully reject the ugly, racist, destructive politics of Donald Trump.
Any other path is a complete betrayal of Abraham Lincoln and the great nation he fought to preserve.
Jennifer Horn is a communications consultant and the former chairman of the Republican Party of New Hampshire, where she has lived for 18 years. She managed William Weld's primary challenge to Donald Trump from April 15 to June 14. Follow her on Twitter: @NHJennifer
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump turned my Republican Party into a racist, nationalist movement