David Johnson may not be a well known lawmaker, but this week he became, in his own way, an historic one. All he had to do was quit the Republican Party.
On Tuesday, Johnson, a state senator representing Iowa's 1st district, announced he would be leaving the G.O.P—he will change his political affiliation to "No Party"—over presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's increasingly racist rhetoric regarding the impartiality of Gonzalo Curiel, the judge overseeing a fraud suit against Trump University. Johnson is reportedly the first elected Republican to do so.
"I haven’t supported Mr Trump at any point along the way," Johnson explained to The Guardian. "But what I am calling his racist remarks and judicial jihad is the last straw." He went on to compare Trump to Hitler, saying "certainly the fascists took control of Germany under the same types of strategies."
While Johnson may be the first Republican office-holder to reject his party over Trump, he is far from the first Republican to step down from a high profile position over Trump's bigoted antics. Earlier this month, Ruth Guerra announced she would be leaving her role as Director of Hispanic Media Relations for the Republican National Committee—a decision reportedly inspired by Trump's rise. Her resignation came shortly after Katrina Elaine Jorgensen declared in an open Facebook post that she would be leaving her role as Communications Chair of the Young Republican National Federation.
"No matter how loud I am in my renouncement of Trump,” Jorgensen explained at the time, “my title will still betray me. I want no part of a racist, fascist, hateful presidency."
It's a frustration echoed by Johnson, who told The Guardian, "I was raised without hearing any racial slur, any racial epithet. It’s something that if we’re going to exclude Muslims from traveling to the United States, who’s next? Are we going to come down on Jews? … He’s not fit to be president."
Trump's assault against Judge Curiel has thrown the Republican politicians into yet another round of chaos over whether or not to distance themselves from their standard bearer. In neighboring Illinois, Senator Mark Kirk used the incident to announce he would not be supporting Trump's presidential campaign, regardless of how that might affect his own re-election chances.
"I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President, Kirk said in a statement issued Tuesday, "regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party."
Trump attempted to walk back his statements on Tuesday, explaining that they were "misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage."
All of these people may simply represent isolated cases, a few disaffected holdouts among a party eagerly hopping abroad the Trump train, no matter its final destination. Or, they may be something else—the first real fractures in a party struggling to hold itself together at the seams.