Republicans are at a crossroads – and to say it with Woody Allen, they’re going to take it.
Is that still a Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House says bills are bipartisan even when the GOP doesn’t vote for them. Gaetz boasted about the “access” to women by the federally accused tax collector in Florida: Report Trump calls for boycott of MLB to move All-Star Game MORE-dominated party or will they move away from its polarizing, exclusive nationalism? The second impeachment trial and Trump’s acquittal for inciting a deadly mob attack on the Capitol only exacerbated this schism.
The feeling – the hope – of more than a few Republicans that the divisive former president would disappear from the political scene was clearly a pipe dream – which was finally dispelled by Trump’s vitriolic broadside on Tuesday Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell White House says bills are bipartisan even when GOP doesn’t vote for them. Officer killed in vehicle attack on Capitol Overnight Defense: 1 officer dead, 1 injured after the car hits the Capitol barrier | Army suspends several members of the service for sexual assault MORE and his vow to endorse major challengers to any Republican official who does not abide by the Trump line.
Both sides in this internal civil war threaten to break off if the other dominates. Trump has threatened to form a third party and a group of Never-Trumpers have raised the same possibility. I doubt both will happen, but the threats add to the tensions.
Republicans are a cause for concern. Since Trump instigated the January 6 mob attack on the Capitol, the GOP’s favor with the public has fallen. Tens of thousands of Republicans across the country are giving up party membership.
Trump’s reputation has also fallen. Officially acquitted during the Senate trial, a record number of senators voted to convict a president. If it had been a secret ballot, former Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones, who had worked with most current senators, said he was “absolutely convinced” that Trump would have been convicted.
More prominent Republicans join a handful of governors and seniors. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden Touts Jobs In March As Recovery Accelerates Jayapal: Republicans Who Don’t Really Care About Bipartism Republicans don’t think Biden really wants to work with them MORE To pity Trump. This includes acts of conscience – like Wyoming Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn Cheney Republicans quietly say Gaetz’s days in Congress are numbered. Gaetz finds few friends in the GOP on the ropes. Matt Gaetz can withdraw from the congress prematurely: MORE report and Nebraska Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseMaine GOP Denies Motion to Blame Collins Senators. He urges the energy chief to make cybersecurity a priority in the face of growing threats. Biden warns GOP that he can support Filibuster MORE – and the calculation of how Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyHaley criticizes Biden’s “weak leadership” in relation to China’s top 5 Republican presidential candidates and 2 on the way out Poll: 81 percent of Republican voters think Trump is MORE positivewho appears ready to run for president in 2024.
But the flak at home for the Republicans who voted against Trump for impeachment was intense, even ugly. House members Tom RiceHugh (Tom) Thompson RiceTrump doubles for approving the conduct of the South Carolina GOP chairman. Forget about Trump’s behavior. Let’s focus on the GOP and America’s future former Fox News host of South Carolina and Cheney have been censored by their states parties. So have Sens. Sasse and Bill CassidyBill CassidyCalls Grows for Paid Family Vacation Amid Pandemic Senators Urge Energy Chief To Prioritize Cybersecurity Amid Growing Threats. Vivek Murthy confirmed this as surgeon general MORE from Louisiana. Neither of them will stand for re-election until 2026. There is a movement in Pennsylvania to reprimand Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse of the Nebraska Republican Party reprimanded Philly GOP commissioner over censure: “I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who lie.” Toomey is being censored by several Pennsylvania County GOP committees for impeachmentwho has already announced that he will be retiring.
In addition to the ongoing passion Trump commands with his base, his followers control much of the republican base, many spinning loony conspiracy theories.
It’s not just the conservative areas of the old line. Take the once temperate Republican strongholds of Oregon and Minnesota. Neither of them has elected a Republican senator since 2002. Minnesota has not elected a GOP governor since 2006, Oregon since 1982. Nonetheless, these contracting states continue to move to the right.
The Oregon Republican Committee declined that the Capitol mob had anything to do with Trump. Instead, they said that it was actually the “goal of the Democrats to seize overall power in a frightening parallel to the burning of the German Reichstag in February 1933”.
The party leaders really approved that.
In Minnesota, the Trump-backing state chairman endorsed the false charge of stealing votes in that state, citing “extreme anomalies” and “statistical anomalies”. The Biden-Harris team won the state by more than 233,000 votes, or 7 percent.
The worst nightmare for Gopher State Republicans is when the My Pillow Guy, Mike Lindell, a conspiratorial Trump loyalist, runs for governor next year. The former president encouraged him.
In the non-Trump ranks, the most interesting scenario was sketched out by one of the party’s leading political thinkers, Bill Kristol, who uses a stock market metaphor for the party: Trump fever with Republicans is a “bubble” and expectations of him are the clout The Republican primaries next year is so high that it is wise to go short as this bubble may burst. It is better for healthy Republicans, he says, when Biden is a “reasonably successful president.” If judged to have failed, the Trumpites will claim justification for returning to power.
I’m a little skeptical that all of this will work – Kristol may be – but there are few more plausible scenarios.
Trump, who was banned from Twitter, faces several charges in various locations for his actions to overturn a legitimate election, in addition to allegations about his previous business and personal conduct.
House spokesman Pelosi, D-Calif., Has ruled out reprimanding the former president, saying it was too light a sentence. Calling some critics to invoke Amendment 14 to prevent it from running again would be a mistake. Trump cleverly plays the victim card; Let’s say he was a top candidate for the next election and was denied a chance to run, especially by the Democrats. I am confident that it will not run successfully again. Don’t make him a political martyr.
But he is still capable of being a troublemaker, a rousing demagogue in a split that may be harder to reconcile than other splits. The post-World War II globalists versus the isolationists were a split eased by the consensus on the threat posed by the Soviet Union and the popularity of President Eisenhower. The bitter rift between Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller in the 1960s was dipped to accept Richard Nixon in 1968. The supply side versus the deficit hawks was a split put on paper by Ronald Reagan and, at times, George HW Bush.
The current division is more personal, petty and life-threatening. Trump doesn’t care about the Republican Party or any other politician than him.
Al Hunt is the former editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News. He previously served as a reporter, office manager, and editor in Washington for the Wall Street Journal. For nearly a quarter of a century he wrote a column on politics for the Wall Street Journal, then for the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. He is hosting the 2020 Politics War Room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.