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Connecticut Republicans need to confront Trumpism

It was heartening to see a statement from Sen. Heather Somers on Wednesday afternoon describing the attack on the U.S. Capitol as an "unacceptable act of treason" and declaring succinctly: "Donald Trump lost the election."

But like U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, who tweeted chagrin about a Wednesday Connecticut GOP tweet condemning the violence — too little, too late, Himes said — I couldn't help but think the same about Somers' proclamation.

Himes noted in his tweet that he was removing his gas mask and brushing broken glass off his clothes as Connecticut Republicans issued a pretty mild rebuke of the Trump-inspired violence that disrupted the certification of Joe Biden's election win.

Indeed, "too little too late" seems to put the problem in good perspective.

From the start of Trump's rise on the national political stage, Connecticut Republicans have walked a tightrope between tacit support and unspoken but implied condemnation, mostly trying to ignore the toxicity of the biggest elephant in the room.

Our former Republican congressman, Rob Simmons of Stonington, in 2016 first declared himself neutral in the presidential contest, but then couldn't help but blurt out a Trump endorsement at a rally, telling a cheering crowd: Give him four years. What do we have to lose?

Turns out, maybe our democracy.

Incredibly, it took a siege of the Capitol to bring Sen. Somers close to her first public challenge of Trumpism, or at least its most poisonous strain. One of her Republican colleagues, Rep. Holly Cheeseman of East Lyme, complained bitterly in a long November op-ed piece about a reporter for The Day who asked her the perfectly reasonable question of whether she thought Trump won or lost the election.

Another noteworthy Wednesday rebuke from the GOP in eastern Connecticut came from Rep. Devin Carney of the 23rd District, who wrote a direct lament about Trumpism on Facebook: "I am extremely saddened at what is occurring as a result of false claims and incitement by the president."

Much of the rest of the GOP response to Wednesday's riots seemed like obligatory condemnation of a violent assault on our government but didn't begin to address the horror of the domestic terrorism bred by Trump.

Freshman Rep. Greg Howard of Stonington said on his Facebook page the "division" of our country must end, as if only political differences were in play Wednesday. This reminds me of Trump saying there were good people on both sides after protests of a rally of white nationalists turned deadly.

Howard wrote he "100%" agrees with a statement by House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora, who on Wednesday, incredibly, seemed to link the violent attack on the Capitol to a summer of Black Lives Matter protests: "The siege that unfolded in Washington, D.C., this afternoon is unacceptable in any circumstance, as were all of the violent protests we have seen over the past six months, no matter how angry or frustrated people may be."

"It is my hope that this will cause lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to summarily reject the growing politicization of protests that's contributing to the growing divide in our country," Candelora wrote.

Sorry, Reps. Howard and Candelora, but there are not good people on both sides, and you can't equate protests over the horror of a Black man being executed by a police officer on a public street with a violent insurrection at the nation's Capitol.

Unless you can see the difference, the divide will only grow greater.

Trumpism is not only splintering the Republican Party, but it is a danger to our country.

It's alive and well here — two of the people arrested Wednesday in Washington are from eastern Connecticut — and Connecticut Republicans better figure out a better strategy to confront it than they have so far.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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