Any Democrat or anti-Trump independent or minor-party member whose top priority in 2020 is anything other than removing Donald Trump from office is part of the problem.

As he demonstrates every day, our president is an openly racist and misogynistic divider who only cares about what other people can do to serve his own perceived self-interest. His profoundly corrupt and dishonest character and behavior, his indifference to established democratic norms – the separation of powers, the rule of law, the free press and other vital American institutions – run directly counter to what our history has exalted and glorified in its past leaders.

Among the most damaging of his crimes (and there’s a lot of them), Trump has a special talent for bringing out the worst in people. Nothing is more illustrative of this than the “send her back” chants from his rabid followers at his race-baiting rally in North Carolina on July 17. The chants were directed toward U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. from Somalia as a child.

Essentially telling this American woman to “go back to Africa,” the chants echoed the president’s unalloyed racist tweets on July 14 suggesting that four progressive minority Congresswomen “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” He incorrectly identified those places as “countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.” Three of the four were born and raised in the U.S.

In tandem with the “go back where you came from” suggestions for these minority women, Trump has resurrected truculent old chestnuts from the Vietnam War era, “America, love it or leave it” and “America right or wrong,” in various formulations. Shameless stooges in the principle-free modern Republican Party have taken up the sentiment, exaggerating and mischaracterizing statements made by Omar and her three progressive colleagues, while accusing them of hating America. For example, Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La, last week declared, “In America, if you hate our country, you are free to leave.”

It’s shocking that these Republicans don’t appreciate the foundational idea that criticizing your country and its leaders is an essential right and freedom in the United States, and has nothing to do with the amount of affection a person might have for it. Throughout our history, this principle has made us different from so many other countries.

And ironically, Trump and his slavish surrogates in the GOP are condemning the same behavior that they engaged in on steroids during the eight years of Barack Obama’s administration. Republicans and their patsies in the far-right media engaged in constant, vituperative criticism of Obama, Democrats and the mainstream news media during that time, as well as what they considered the general deteriorating state of the nation under Obama. Any Trump stump speech during the 2016 election campaign painted an ugly and exaggerated picture of a failing and fading America.

One need only look at Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” to see the underlying sentiment. During those years, according to this thinking, America wasn’t great or good, and as a result needed drastic reform.

Few if any at that time had the vicious audacity to accuse Trump and other Republican critics of hating their country. Most right-thinking people just thought they were wrong.

And it’s simple enough to turn the “they hate America” charge against Trump and the Republicans. A good argument can be made that climate-change denial in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence is already hurting our nation, and that the far-reaching impacts will become catastrophic in the not-so-distance future. If you think so little of your country that you refuse to prepare for a perilous future, and in fact aggressively block those preparations, yes, it sure looks as if you have little regard for your homeland.

FOR THE AFOREMENTIONED REASONS and others too numerous to list in this space, America’s survival as a plausible democratic republic that respects and abides by the rule of law and Constitution absolutely depends on Trump’s removal from office, preferably in the election in 15 months.

Every other Democratic or progressive goal should pale beside that all-essential necessity. Any candidate, campaign or interest group that agrees with the imperative that Trump has to go should filter their every action, statement and policy through this test: Will it help Trump get re-elected? And to a lesser degree: Will it help give Trump, if God forbid he wins re-election, a Republican majority in the Senate or House?

This doesn’t mean that a robust debate can’t occur in the Democratic primary race. People who are wringing their hands over various fault-lines appearing in the Democratic Party should remember that multi-candidate primary races are always like this. The purpose of the process is to air a wide range of ideas, attitudes and personalities in open debate, with the process winnowing out the candidates and ideas that don’t have sufficient traction.

But just as uneasy allies find a way to work together in wartime, knowing that the first goal is to defeat the main enemy, during this election cycle, Democrats, independents and Republicans who recognize the profound dangers posed by a second Trump term need to keep their eyes on the prize, defeating Donald J. Trump. If they can do that, he’ll lose and America will win.

Then hopefully we can move on to the sort of politics that elevates issues and principle over personality and attitude.

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