Donald Trump is speaking to Pennsylvania Republicans in a few weeks. More than a few Pennsylvanians would rather he not.
The statewide Republican party is drawing fire post-Thanksgiving after its pre-holiday announcement that current Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump will provide lunchtime remarks a PA Society event on Dec. 11 at the swanky Park Plaza Hotel in New York. Tickets for the Commonwealth Club luncheon are apparently starting at $1,000 a pop and you can snag a table for a cool ten grand.
This morning, The Harrisburg Patriot-News called for the Pennsylvania Republican party to ditch Trump and rescind its invitation on account of the real estate developer’s record of mockery and insensitivity. The paper cited examples like mocking a reporter’s disability, suggesting a Muslim registry and other “appalling remarks about undocumented immigrants and women.”
“By choosing Trump, Republican leaders have simply decided to embarrass themselves,” The Patriot-News wrote. “They should rescind Trump’s invitation and make clear there is no room in the party for his brand of rhetoric.”
The state GOP has seen the editorial and other criticisms; stealing a move from the reality show star-turned-pugnacious candidate, it’s not backing down.
“Over the course of the past year, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania has hosted many presidential candidates to speak at our events and each shared their own viewpoint for the country,” PA GOP spokeswoman Megan Sweeney said. “Donald Trump has been a successful business leader in New York for decades and our supporters will have an opportunity to hear about his vision during an important time in which they’re deciding who to support next year.”
The presidential candidates Sweeney is talking about include candidates who addressed crowds in Philadelphia earlier this year: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (no longer a candidate) as well as former PA Sen. Rick Santorum and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who have both been relegated to kids’ table debates and are posting negligible polling numbers.
Other Democrats agree. State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, said “everyone” should be concerned about the message it’s sending to Pennsylvanians that Trump is headlining the event.
“Democrats and Republicans should be concerned about this message,” he said, “that they think it’s OK to open their arms and their party for public display to someone who has offended most of the American population.”
He added: “They should be ashamed of themselves. This is what I’ve got to deal with in Harrisburg. This kind of thinking. This kind of ideology.”
And State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, an outspoken progressive in the PA legislature, slammed the “disturbing” move saying Trump is “flirting with fascism.”
“This man has run an outright racist, xenophobic campaign and now he’s making fun of handicapped people,” Leach said. “And apparently the Pennsylvania Republicans think this is great and are inviting him to speak.”
Some state GOP leaders aren’t even saying they support Trump, but have admitted that his presence might just drum up some excitement just because it’s him. Jim Roddey, chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, offered this to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “I’m not going to support him, but I think that he’s colorful and a lot of people will come just to hear him talk, even if they anticipate he might say something crazy.”
Leach responded, saying “It’s not enough to say ‘I don’t personally support him, but I will profit off him.’ That’s like saying I don’t support David Duke or members of the Klan who would also probably create a spectacle if brought in.”
The state Democratic party says they’re working on a statement; we’ll update when it arrives. Ticketing information for the luncheon with Trump and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Club can be found here.