With many congressional Republicans racing to put some distance between themselves and the White House's sympathetic view of white nationalist demonstrators, the country is locked into a now-familiar dynamic. Liberal critics are demanding that GOP figures actually do something to indicate displeasure with Trump, while GOP defenders say it's hardly reasonable to expect Paul Ryan or Jeff Flake to abandon longtime conservative policy priorities simply because Trump has embraced them.
There's some fairness to the defenders' stance. Republicans mainly vote with Trump because Trump mainly agrees with them on a broad range of public policy issues — especially the desirability of cutting taxes, reducing social assistance, regulating businesses and gun owners less stringently, and trying to make abortion illegal — and they still agree with him on those policies, no matter what he says about Charlottesville.
But that agreement doesn't give Republicans a free pass for inaction. There's a lot that Congress could do to restrain the things about Trump that are odd and abnormal without Republicans needing to abandon any of their longstanding policy commitments.
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I'm a black Southerner. I had to go abroad to see a statue celebrating black liberation.
Indeed, we even have a concrete example of the kind of thing that needs to be done from back in July, when overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress voted to tie Trump's hands on Russia sanctions. This is how, in theory, the American system of checks and balances is supposed to work.
But mostly it hasn't been working. Republicans could easily change that, without jeopardizing the policy priorities they share with the president.