Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Former President Donald Trump's bids for attention are becoming increasingly outrageous, desperate and even dangerous.
His latest ploy is the most alarming yet: an explicit call for "termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution," as part of his ceaseless attempt to invalidate the results of the 2020 election.
He did not, as some news outlets reported, call for a suspension of the Constitution. It's just a word, but words matter, and the intent carried in the word "termination" is far more ominous.
Some Republicans have been quick to dismiss the likelihood of any such thing ever happening. But are we so sure? No one ever thought American insurrectionists would storm the U.S. Capitol, turning the grounds into a bloody battlefield, yet it happened. No one ever thought a mob would demand the death of a vice president and have already constructed a gallows, but that happened too. It once was difficult even to imagine a president absconding with boxes of classified files upon departing the White House, forcing an FBI raid to recover them, but that too happened.
Trump continues to hold too many elected Republican officials in his thrall — whether out of respect or fear — and he continues to be a dominating force among MAGA acolytes. That makes it impossible to ignore him.
"This is very dangerous," Eric Janus, former president of William Mitchell Law School and an expert on constitutional law, told an editorial writer. "We have nothing left if the Constitution is invalidated. Then we have a dictatorship."
Janus said the threat is grave enough that responsible leaders across the country should condemn Trump's remarks. "It can't be considered a joke, or clownish behavior," Janus said. "It has to be called out for what it is — an attack on the bedrock foundation of this nation." Janus said Republican leaders in Minnesota should be part of that condemnation. "I would hope to hear from the ones I have some respect for," he said. "It will be a big disappointment if we don't."
So far, that condemnation has been slow in coming. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who defeated a Trump-supported opponent in November, was correct when she said that even suggesting termination of the Constitution "is not only a betrayal of our oath of office, it's an affront to our republic." Some might call it treasonous. Others, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who apparently will court anyone who can help fulfill his ambition to become speaker in January, failed again to offer any criticism of Trump.
It's clear that Trump is scraping the bottom of his bag of tricks. He serves up one outrage after another: more lies about 2020, more fomenting of discontent with American institutions. Last month he dined with anti-Semite Kanye West and white supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.
In a recent fundraising video, he expressed solidarity with the mob that invaded the Capitol. "People have been treated unconstitutionally, in my opinion, and very, very unfairly," he said. The Justice Department, he declared, had been weaponized. He railed against the Supreme Court because it dared to block his request to shield his tax returns from congressional examination. On Tuesday, in another ignominious development, the Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. were found guilty of criminal tax fraud, part of a 15-year-long scheme to defraud the government.
Enough. The Republican Party should stop this sham of a candidacy right now. It seems impossible that its next standard-bearer might be someone who openly called for termination of the Constitution, who pledges to pardon the traitors who stormed the Capitol, who dines with anti-Semites and white supremacists, whose companies work to defraud the very government he wants to lead again.
If Republicans want to restore their standing, to bring back many who have quietly left the party during the Trump years, to once again engage as thought leaders in this nation, they should relegate Trump to the sideshow he has become. He is their past, but he need not be their future.