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It’s Still the Party of Trump

January 9, 2021

attack on Capitol

Democrats keep dreaming that Republicans are going to see the light and abandon Trump, but we need to wake up and realize that’s only a dream. Never mind that he incited an deadly insurrection that trashed the Capitol in order to stop the electoral vote count, or that he was recorded threatening Georgia election officials if they didn’t alter the vote count in Georgia. THEY DO NOT CARE! To quote the Rachel Maddow mantra: Watch what they do, not what they say.

Two days after the riot at the Capitol, Republican officials held a party conference at Amelia Island, FL. As the New York Times reported: “Party members, one after another, said in interviews that the president did not bear any blame for the violence at the Capitol and indicated that they wanted him to continue to play a leading role in the party.” The party chair Ronna McDaniel lamented the attack, but “neither she nor any other speaker so much as publicly hinted at Mr. Trump’s role in inciting a mob assault on America’s seat of government.”

Only hours after the attack on the Capitol, 147 Republican members of Congress persisted in “objecting” to the counting of electoral votes, in a quixotic attempt to stop the count and overturn the election results. This represented a majority of the Republican members in the House including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. (McCarthy is the guy who in 2016 was caught on tape opining to the congressional Republican leadership that Trump was controlled by Putin.) Florida senator Rick Scott (who has not been particularly closely tied to Trump) voted–in the middle of the night when no one was watching–to disqualify the Pennsylvania electoral votes.

Mitch McConnell got praise in the media for accepting the election results and not voting for disqualification of state electoral votes (a low bar indeed), but he continues to protect Trump from efforts to remove him from office. As Democrats move to re-impeach Trump, McConnell let it be known (in a memo obtained by The Washington Post) that the Senate would not take up impeachment until January 19, meaning that the Senate trial could not begin until after Trump leaves office on the following day (and, of course, McConnell is no longer Majority Leader).

VP Mike Pence, who has been personally attacked by Trump and his minions for doing his duty and presiding over the electoral vote count in Congress, refuses to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump, despite a growing chorus of voices–including Rupert Murdock’s Wall Street Journal editorial page–that Trump is dangerous and must be removed. Meanwhile, cabinet members like Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos have resigned their posts, insuring that they will never be forced into voting on removing Trump.

The official GOP line is becoming clear: What a shame that the Capitol was attacked, but Trump had nothing to do with it. No one even mentions that Trump was recorded blatantly suborning the Georgia Secretary of State to alter election results, and threatening him if he didn’t do it.

Off the record, individual Republicans may mumble into their sleeves that maybe Trump went too far and perhaps needs to be held accountable, but still they remain loyal. Republican office holders like Lisa Murkowski or Ben Sasse or Mitt Romney, who have publicly said Trump should go, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The reason for their cowardice is glaringly obvious: The Republican Party has become a cult of personality and Republican voters are not voting for the party, they are voting for Trump. Those 75 million votes that went to Trump in November were for him, not the party. If Republicans splinter to form another party or leave the party altogether, no one is going to follow. The calculus is simple. If Republican politicians want to keep getting elected, they must stick with Trump.

We keep reading about the demise of the Republican party, but it’s not dying, it’s just mutating. The so-called “moderate Republican” is all but extinct, and the traditional wing of the party knows which way the wind blows and is adjusting quite easily to the new reality. Just look at Ron Johnson! Marco Rubio does his usual thing of muttering gobbledygook to suggest that he has “reservations” about what just happened, but he always falls into line in the end. Lindsey Graham has shed his skin more times than a copperhead, but he’s still backing Trump. There are few, if any, significant differences on policy between the Trumpistas and the traditionalists, and the latter see that Bolshevik tactics work so they’re fine with it. 

The lesson has been learned by the jackals who now set the tone for the party’s style and tactics: Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, Tom Cotton, Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, etc. They are smart, glib, slick, and utterly amoral, willing to utter any lie with a straight face if it advances their agenda. For now, they follow along in Trump’s wake, feeding on the carcasses.  They are the future of the Republican Party, and it’s a frightening prospect. 

For them, as for Mitch McConnell, it’s all about power. I think the tensions in the party that we see are purely about personal power, not direction or substance. The only real fundamental principle of the party is white privilege. As Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote: ” It is being framed, and not without reason, as the ultimate statement of white privilege; a white mob allowed to ransack the Capitol — virtually none was arrested and some even took selfies with police — in the same city where peaceful protesters asserting that Black Lives Matter were met with military force. But for all the other things that riot was, it was also an expression of fear — the panic of those who find themselves outnumbered.”

So forget the pipe dreams about the Republican Party self-destructing. Instead, we need to see clearly what we and the country face: A Republican Party that is mutating into neo-fascism and willing to use any means necessary to keep itself in power.  

I would love to be proved wrong.

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