In a free and open democracy, citizens are expected to evaluate all the options, listen to the opinions of experts and people they trust, and then make an informed decision when casting their vote. But what happens when those experts and trusted voices aren't fully open with the voters? With the hacking and release of former Secretary of State Colin Powell's emails, we're getting a sense of how holding back can actually feel more like withholding.
The emails, which were published by the website DCLeaks.com and reported by BuzzFeed, give a pretty raw view into Powell's thoughts on many different pols. But none seem quite so derisive as what the retired four-star general had to say about Republican nominee Donald Trump. "The whole birther movement was racist," he said in an email to an aide. "When Trump couldn't keep that up he said he also wanted to see if the certificate noted that he was a Muslim. ... As I have said before, 'What if he was?' Muslims are born as Americans everyday."
As one of the highest ranking Republicans in both government and the military, many have been looking to Powell for signs about which candidate he would support; Powell declined to attend either party's convention, even though he had previously endorsed Barack Obama's two candidacies.
While Powell had plenty of harsh words for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, his criticisms of Trump are confusing in their heretofore unexpressed nature. No doubt, having his private emails made public is a violation of his privacy. Yet, the fact that Powell held Trump is such disregard — elsewhere in the leak he refers to the GOP nominee as a "national disgrace and an international pariah" — and didn't come forward on his own begs the question: what did he think was going to happen?
Powell's private condemnation but public poker face about his party's xenophobic, misogynist, and racist nominee is the latest disclosure of Republicans whose opposition to Trump's candidacy had been kept under wraps, and is now repeating on them like a bad Trump Chardonnay. (Fun/horrifying fact: there's a sampler of Trump Wines available online called "Taste of Trump." I'll give you a moment to stop dry-heaving.)
BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins reported Tuesday on a group of GOP operatives who "are expressing alarm at Trump's sudden electoral viability." The real revelation in Coppins' piece is the extent to which some blame Clinton for not more definitively pulling ahead of Trump. "How f*cking hard is this, Hillary?" Ben Howe, a conservative advertisement creator, is quoted as saying. "I'm losing faith in Hillary's ability to win this easy-*ss election."
Perhaps, if people like Powell and other respected Republican voices, like Maine Sen. Susan Collins, had come forward sooner (or, you know, at all), Trump might not have the staying power he's currently enjoying. And if Trump ends up being victorious, I believe blame will rest just as much with the GOP elders who stayed quiet as it will with Clinton.
If the race stays tight, more Republicans who secretly are hoping for a Trump defeat might have to come out of the shadows to make it happen.