National Opinions

Time for Young, Sullivan and Murkowski to take an honest stand on Trump

We say it every year, but this year's presidential campaign seems to be the nastiest, most divisive and most irritating campaign yet. The frightening thing is, this year it's true. I've seen a lot of elections and I have never seen a candidate demonstrate less regard for our political process or the integrity of the voters.

Donald Trump has engaged in a strategy of encouraging hate and amplifying fears that's great for grabbing headlines but is chipping away at an already eroding public trust. At a time when we need leaders who will bring people together more than ever, Trump's antics aren't just divisive; they are downright dangerous.

There was the time Donald Trump chose to criticize the grieving parents of a soldier killed in Iraq.

Or when he criticized Republican Sen. John McCain, saying he was "not a war hero" and that Trump liked "people who weren't captured."

Or the time Trump told a room full of veterans that when our soldiers are hit by IEDs, they simply "go for a little ride."

Or when he mocked a reporter with disabilities – and refused to apologize.

And then there is the seemingly never-ending series of brash, racist or sexist comments – attacking everyone from a federal judge to a Fox News television host.

Even babies. For decades, politicians have been staging photo opportunities to kiss a baby, and this year Donald Trump is tossing them out of rallies.

And we thought it was bad when he said he wanted to change the name of Denali back to Mount McKinley. If we only knew what was yet to come.

Trump's outrageous behavior has drawn an unprecedented response.

Earlier this week, 50 Republican national security experts, many of whom served in George W. Bush's administration, signed a letter saying they would not vote for Donald Trump because they were convinced "he would be the most reckless President in American history."

Four sitting Republican senators – Susan Collins, Lindsay Graham, Mark Kirk and Ben Sasse – have broken with the Republican Party and explicitly stated they will not vote for Donald Trump due to his lack of values and character.  Other Republican senators like Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller have also been sharply critical of Trump and his nomination.

Even former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said that "his conscience" will not allow him to vote for Donald Trump. And Jeb Bush cited lack of character as a reason why he won't vote for Trump this November.

In a year of over-the-top divisiveness, one thing seems to be bringing people together: Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States of America. All across the country, leaders and elected officials are making their opposition to Trump heard loud and clear.

And yet, the Alaska congressional delegation doesn't seem to have much to say at all.

[DERMOT COLE: Alaska delegation hides behind 'non-endorsement endorsement']

Our delegation continues to dance around the question of whether or not they will vote for Trump. They release a quote here or there when the media tracks them down on Trump's latest outburst but they always stop short of saying whether or not they will vote for him anyway.

True to character, Congressman Don Young has been the most outspoken. During the primary process, he made it clear that he was not supporting Trump and that he was dismayed with those who supported Trump and were "following a pied piper over the edge of a cliff."  Young has been largely quiet since Trump officially became the Republican nominee.

Sen. Dan Sullivan was actually the only member of our delegation to attend the Republican National Convention in his hometown of Cleveland. Sullivan was part of the official programming and spoke on stage at the event but has tried to claim only tepid support since then.

Perhaps most interesting, Sen. Murkowski – who ultimately won her 2010 election as an independent write-in candidate with the support of Democrats and Republicans – has yet to take any sort of firm position on Trump's candidacy.  Just this week, she said she still needs the next several months to hear "what is laid down in terms of policy."

At what point do our leaders decide that Donald Trump's racist, sexist and disparaging message is too dangerous for them to stay silent? Are they playing it safe in the final days before a primary election? Will we hear more before the general election in November?

These are the questions that Alaskans deserve an answer to. These are the questions that the media should hold our elected officials accountable for.

And for the critics who think it's easy or unfair for me to say this because I am a Democrat and Donald Trump is a Republican, let me remind you of 2014. During my Senate campaign, my opponents mentioned President Obama and Harry Reid almost more than they ever said Mark Begich. Was it always relevant? No. But did I answer the questions about who I voted for? Yes.

So I say enough is enough. Alaskans have been watching Donald Trump make irresponsible and disparaging remarks for months. You hear people talk about it everywhere you go – at the gas station, the grocery store or walking around downtown. Leadership means not sticking your head in the sand just because it's an inconvenient question.

In a state with more veterans per capita than any other state, Trump's disrespect for our military and their families should be enough to know where you stand.

In a state with more federally recognized tribes than any other state, Trump's blatant and repeated racism should be enough to know where you stand.

And in a state where the phrase "choose respect" isn't just a slogan but a call for action, Trump's overt sexism should be enough to know where you stand.

It's time for our delegation to stand up and be clear with Alaskans. You either support Donald Trump or you don't. You either plan to vote for Donald Trump or you don't. You either condone a campaign that is furthering the negativity and nastiness in our public discourse or you don't.

Staying silent is not avoiding the question, it's accepting the damage being done.

Mark Begich is a former U.S. senator from Alaska and former mayor of Anchorage.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

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