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Joe Henderson: Rick Wilson is shrill, tough, profane — and needed

I loved the profile by Alex Leary in Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times about Republican commentator and thorny bush Rick Wilson, whose daily Twitter rampages against President Donald Trump have made him a must-follow.

A lot of people must agree with that last statement. Wilson’s Twitter feed has 296,000 followers.

He is personal, fearless, on point, profane, borderline savage, uncouth and immensely entertaining when it comes to his assessment of Trump’s performance, either in the Twittersphere or as a columnist for The Daily Beast.

Well, good — that is, if his fellow conservatives are listening.

Denouncing Trump so loudly, so often, becomes just howling at the moon unless principled members of his party can execute a course correction. Republicans need to be on a path where honor matters more than tax cuts and border walls. It puts people like Wilson and principled conservatives in danger of becoming modern-day Cassandras — the mythical prophet whose warnings of disaster were ignored.

The GOP departure from reason that gave us Trump is not likely to be reversed even if Democrats clean up in the midterms. Republican senators denounce Trump when there is no other choice, but they cave when it comes time to vote.

Influential evangelical religious leaders like Franklin Graham are curiously tolerant of the president’s personal failings, even telling Fox & Friends recently, “I find this refreshing to have a president who’s not afraid to say Jesus, he’s not afraid to have prayers where people end in the name of Jesus … We’ve never had this, not in my lifetime, and he defends the Christian faith more than any president in my lifetime.“

Oh? Graham is 65 years old. That means he was alive when Jimmy Carter was president. That’s the same Jimmy Carter who presidency was judged a failure but whose status as a human being and a love-in-action Christian is beyond reproach.

That’s what I mean about a party that has lost its bearings, despite warnings from people like Rick Wilson. To put it in a way Franklin Graham might relate, the party mortgaged its soul in exchange for policies conservatives embrace.

It’s how people like Roy Moore, Joe Arpaio and Steve Bannon become prominent faces of Republican politics.

It’s how chanting “lock her up, lock her up” about a prominent Democrat became a rallying cry at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

It’s how Trump supporters can overlook the parallel between that and last weekend’s violent arrest in Moscow of Alexei Navalny, who was considered a serious challenger to President Vladimir Putin — Trump’s BFF — in the upcoming Russian election before he was mysteriously disqualified as a candidate.

Some Trump supporters probably wouldn’t mind seeing the same thing happen to Rick Wilson, judging by some of the correspondence he receives. And that’s really the problem.

Wilson’s taunts remind us that this is America and we don’t all have to agree. Maybe we even shouldn’t agree. Like his Twitter feed, this country is messy, complicated, and more than a little rude at times.

The profile made the point that Wilson, gasp, actually has friends who are Democrats. We used to be able to exist like that and still get along without checking all the ideological boxes. I miss those days.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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