In times of crisis, a president’s job is to bring the country together. But last week, when we needed this president to unite the American people against hatred and bigotry, Donald Trump did the opposite. Instead of bringing people together, he emboldened white supremacists and created a false equivalence between those upholding racism and those fighting to defeat it.
Now Trump is throwing salt on the wounds he tore open, traveling to Arizona to promote his divisive agenda and potentially pardon one of our nation’s most notorious symbols of racism and bigotry: former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
For years, Arpaio made headlines by using racial profiling and turning his officers into a deportation force to separate families – all in service to what he called “law and order.”
When I was head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Obama, we investigated Arpaio’s practices, and we didn’t find much law or order. In fact, we discovered more than 400 cases of rape and assault that his office had failed to investigate. They were so focused on checking people’s papers that they turned a blind eye to the victims of crime. In one instance, Arpaio’s office failed to arrest a suspect accused of raping a 13-year-old girl, and the man went on to sexually attack her again.
Instead of catching criminals, Arpaio tore families apart and built what one of his own deputies called a “wall of distrust” between the police and the Latino community.
Donald Trump is trying to take hateful policies like these nationwide.
Without moral leadership in the White House, we need both parties in Congress to come together against hate. Sadly, most of the Republican Party has failed to stand up to Trump. Just as President Trump first refused to call out white supremacists by name, the vast majority of Republicans have refused to call out Trump for empowering hatred.
Of course, the Republican Party’s failures hardly end there. Standing up to hate means doing more than disagreeing with Donald Trump on Twitter – it means defending Americans’ civil rights and working to bring our nation together.
For Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, that means calling out the fearmongering rhetoric and policies Trump has promoted throughout his candidacy and presidency. It means ending disastrous law enforcement policies like those championed by Sheriff Arpaio. It means working to make voting easier instead of fighting to deny Latinos and African Americans their constitutional rights at the ballot box. And it means keeping immigrant families together instead of helping Donald Trump tear them apart.
I know bipartisanship on these issues is possible because I’ve seen it firsthand. When I was a civil rights attorney, I worked with Republican colleagues to fight some of same hateful groups on the rise today. But with Donald Trump as president, Republicans have thrown morality and reason to the wind.
Democrats believe diversity is our nation’s greatest strength, and we remain prepared as ever to find bipartisan solutions to the challenges we face as a nation. As Donald Trump tries to divide us, it’s time for Republicans to reject their party’s leader and work with Democrats to build a more inclusive future for all Americans – from Phoenix to Charlottesville.