The Republican Party is in big trouble.
Just as the Minneapolis City Council is the gift that keeps on giving to Republicans, so, too, is former President Donald Trump the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats.
The Democrats seem to understand those two facts better than the Republicans currently do.
Of the 57 senators who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, seven were Republicans. Those seven did not exactly represent a courageous contingent. Two of them, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr, had already decided to forego attempting re-election in 2022. Three others, Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse and Maine’s Susan Collins just won re-election three months ago and won’t face voters again until 2026. Only Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski will face voters in 2022 when last week’s episode will still be fresh in people’s minds. Utah’s Mitt Romney comes up for re-election in 2024.
However, Louisiana didn’t hesitate. The Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Louisiana unanimously voted to censure Cassidy the same day as he voted to convict Trump. Cassidy responded, “Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty.”
In North Carolina, Burr was also censured by the state Republican Party on Monday. In Pennsylvania, Toomey has been censured by five GOP county committees. Sasse has already been censured by one Nebraska county Republican committee, and a statewide censure is being considered. Although yet to be determined, Collins could face a Republican censure vote by month’s end.
In Utah, while there have been rumblings among Republicans about censuring Romney, the state party chair remains opposed. Chair Derek Brown said, “I don’t anticipate that the party will be doing anything now other than focusing on Republican principles, … retaining those voters who joined the party during the last few years, and encouraging those who have left the party to come back.”
Murkowski has long been a maverick Republican. She has been in the Senate since 2002, and won a write-in campaign for re-election after losing the GOP primary in 2010. In November, Alaska adopted an “instant run-off” format for its elections. All candidates, regardless of party, will be on the same ballot. The top four finishers will then advance to the general election, where ranked-choice voting will be used. Under that format, she could well win re-election.
Those seven senators are not alone in being chastised by their own party. On Jan. 23, Arizona Republicans censured Cindy McCain, widow of former Sen. John McCain, as well as former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and sitting Gov. Doug Ducey, all Republicans who have been critical of Trump. They also re-elected state chair Kelli Ward, who has been a staunch Trump supporter, even though the state’s electoral votes went to Joe Biden and the Republicans lost a U.S. Senate seat.
In Wyoming, U.S. House Minority Whip Liz Cheney, the third ranking Republican, voted to impeach Trump, and was promptly censured by her state’s party.
So much for the so-called “11th Commandment” espoused by former President Ronald Reagan, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
On Feb. 12, Minnesota 6th District Rep. Tom Emmer, chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee and the fourth ranking House Republican, tried to downplay the party’s split, noting that the Democrats have their own rifts between its liberal and socialist wings. Indeed, if the Democrats could only get their representatives to stop saying “defund the police,” and actually took action to restore law and order in central cities, they could probably achieve much more of their far-left agenda.
However, the fact remains that Donald Trump is now the godfather of the Republican Party. He appears to be the single person who will determine which Republicans will face primary opposition and which will not, all based, not on some policy criteria, but on loyalty to him.
I confess I don’t understand that singular loyalty. Given the Democrats’ gift of ceding the law-and-order issue, the Republicans should have routed the Democrats. Instead, they gained a few seats, but now have given total control of the federal government to the Democrats. Instead of looking ahead to what might work for them in the next election, the Grand Old Party is busy applying purity tests that are bound to shrink its tent.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted against conviction, nevertheless had this to say after that vote, “In recent weeks, our ex-President’s associates have tried to use the 74 million Americans who voted to re-elect him as a kind of human shield against criticism. … That is an absurd deflection. 74 million Americans did not invade the Capitol. Several hundred rioters did. And 74 million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it. One person did.”
All of you Trump supporters, and I know you are many, need to think hard about whether your personal loyalty extends to attacking the very core of our democratic republic, the Congress in session in the U.S. Capitol. You would do best to find another standard bearer to lead your cause, because this one just gave away your best issue – support for law and order.
Tom West, now retired, is the former general manager of this paper. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.