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Editorial

Charlie Baker takes the right stand on Trump

Charlie Baker spoke to reporters at the state house in Boston on Thursday. Keith Bedford/Staff/Globe Staff

Good for Charlie Baker. He said Wednesday that he would not vote for Donald Trump in November, becoming the first sitting Republican governor with the moral courage to take the right stand.

Granted, his definitive disavowal of Trump came a little late, and with a little too much defensiveness — Baker seemed to take great umbrage that reporters would ask a politician questions about politics — but he still stands head and shoulders above most of the rest of his party.

Trump’s decisive victories on Super Tuesday have sparked a collective freakout by Republicans, who are grasping for a response to his seemingly unstoppable march to the party’s nomination. Most despise Trump, but only one GOP senator, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, and a handful of other officials have said they won’t support him if he becomes the party’s nominee.

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As some observers have argued, Republican officials laid the groundwork for Trump by playing footsie over the years with the xenophobic attitudes he has exploited. When politicians abet birtherism and immigrant-bashing — or scorn refugees — it gives oxygen to prejudices that should have been snuffed out decades ago. Mitt Romney’s denunciation of Trump on Thursday would have packed more punch if he had shown any introspection about how Romney, who courted Trump in 2012, helped legitimize the billionaire’s noxious views.

But it’s too late to undo all that. How the GOP got to this point matters less than what officials do now, and Republicans need to take the same plunge Baker has. To support Trump just because he’s the party’s presumptive nominee means lining up with a candidate whose campaign has relied on hate and ignorance.

That could mean sitting out the November election, backing Hillary Clinton, or rallying to a third-party candidate. Baker didn’t hint which option he’d choose, though he made it clear he’s no fan of Clinton. Fair enough; nobody’s expecting him to become a Democrat.

There’s plenty of tactical reason for self-interested Republicans to disavow Trump too. He is what Mayor Menino would have called an Alcatraz around the necks of other GOP candidates. Like it or not, if Trump is the party’s nominee, every Republican running for office is going to be associated with his insults and offensive rhetoric, unless they categorically repudiate him.

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Especially in the Northeast, it shouldn’t be too hard for Republicans to spurn Trump and his army of trolls. The region’s two Senate Republicans, in particular, need to take a side. Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the anti-Trump train is leaving the station. Are you on board?