Re: “Commentary: Flake’s Senate floor speech rekindles memories of Margaret Chase Smith” (Oct. 28):

Although only a few Republicans muttered comments of support for Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s declaration of conscience speech about President Trump and “the Republican leadership largely looked the other way,” his action throws down the gauntlet for others to consider their stand.

Maine Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith’s declaration of conscience speech in 1950 was more than just “a piece of stirring rhetoric” by a senator “speaking through a petticoat,” in the words of Republican Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy. She eventually became an icon for all who prize decency and morality in government.

It took some years for others to arrive at her judgment about McCarthy’s immorality. History has not been kind to McCarthy. An English newspaper wrote of him, “America was the cleaner by his fall.”

We remain in a situation where “everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure,” as the political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1838 in “Democracy in Action.” The rising chorus of women empowered to speak out publicly to unmask male predators and abusers in elective office and the media gives some hope that our collective moral edge is being sharpened.

Despite the degrading and dangerous behavior of President Trump, there has yet been no call to remove him. The faux appearance of unity and support for Trump displayed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot conceal the fact that their moral position is precisely identical in every respect: that is, it doesn’t exist. It is two dogs fighting for the same bone of a once-grand old party. Republicans of strong conscience may yet “seek the cure.”

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