by Reed Galen
Nearly eight years into the Trump Era of American politics, and his subsequent take-over of the Republican Party, there are some in elite circles who believe the GOP is redeemable. They’re wrong. In its current state and with its current leadership, the Republican Party is the political wing of a Christian Nationalist authoritarian movement that operates under the MAGA banner.
There are a few Republican leaders who have actually taken on Trumpism and its worst actors. Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, and eight other House Republicans voted to impeach Trump in 2021 in the wake of the January 6th insurrection (only two of them remain in office). Mitt Romney likewise voted to convict in his trial.
For most, though, the path of least resistance is silence, deafness, and blindness. None of the two dozen or so ‘moderate’ Republican members of the US House voted against Kevin McCarthy’s speakership. In fact, they were first on board. They didn’t cross the aisle and talk to Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries about finding a solution. No, they eagerly lined up as McCarthy sold the House to MAGA.
Some of those same ‘problem solving’ members are now taking a hard line on the upcoming debt ceiling fight, threatening to send the United States into default unless President Joe Biden negotiates on ‘reasonable’ spending cuts. This is despite the fact that those in office during Trump’s presidency voted three times to pass ‘clean’ debt ceiling increases. Those same members also blew a hole in the budget by passing massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and Corporate America.
But they’ve crossed the aisle before, their supporters will say. They’ve voted on bipartisan issues. It’s easy to take a vote on a popular infrastructure package when you’re in the minority. It’s another thing to cross your own party for the good of the country while you’re in the majority. That is what these members won’t do: When push comes to shove, they want to live in a utopia where they get to enjoy the political currency of bipartisanship while putting nothing on the line and letting the devils do their worst.
Wait, they’ll say, but if there are no moderate Republicans left, who will be around to make deals? Moderate Republicans are a fiction created by consultants, donors, and their super PACs. If asked, would any of them take Donald Trump to task for January 6th today? No. They sit at the table with Marjorie Taylor Greene and the Camp Auschwitz guy; they just don’t want anyone to see them.
Last week, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, perhaps the last two lights for Never Trump Republicanism, were asked if they’d support Donald Trump if he’s the GOP’s 2024 nominee. Both said yes, they would. While Hogan’s team tried to walk it back, the damage is done. In a moment, both vaporized their only reason for being Republicans and running for the presidency in 2024. If you’ve already caved, why go through the motions of a campaign?
For those like Nikki Haley, who are preparing to enter the race, we will never hear them say the words “Donald Trump” in their announcement speeches. You won’t see his name in their ads, and you won’t see references to his attempt to overthrow the Republic. They’ll only go so far as to say the country needs a “new direction.”
The Republican Party, moderates included, made a deal with the devil seven years ago. Despite numerous opportunities to rid their party and the country of Trump’s political and social influence, they’ve refused to do so. Their refusals will continue into 2024. Why? Because they fear him, fear his supporters, and most of all, fear that he will cost them their jobs. Remember, the GOP Establishment’s anger at Trump after the 2022 midterms had nothing to do with his ongoing criminal behavior and everything to do with the fact they blame him for losing seats.
Where are those complaints now? Gone. Lost to history, never to be heard from again.
If these people are such weaklings, why even worry about them? For several reasons. One, their credentials (such as they are) give the Republican Party a level of credibility it doesn’t deserve. These pilot fish serve little purpose beyond taking MAGA through the car wash.
Next, they and their supporters refuse to acknowledge the game we’re in. They still think this is about bi-partisanship, having the trade associations throw you fundraisers and receiving some award. The real fight is between the forces of democracy and authoritarianism. In this fight, they’re fellow travelers of those who not only tried to destroy the Constitution but belong to a party in which 70% of its voters believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.
The Republican Party that I grew up in, of Ronald Reagan, John McCain, and both George Bushes, is dead and gone. Never to return. Anyone who believes otherwise is selling something: Call it normative Utopianism. They have to believe they can return to a world they understand (and can control) because to believe differently is impossible.
Lastly, none of them have a stomach for the fight. Getting any attention at all that isn’t a glow-up from donors and the mainstream media is bad news for them. They want to pursue perfectly manicured political careers in search of little else than self-aggrandizement and the future opportunity to lobby or serve on a corporate board.
Are there “good Republicans” out there? I’m sure there are a few, but today, they’re conspicuously absent from any leadership role in the GOP, and none wield real power. They’re stalking horses for plutocrats and patsies for the worst the Republican Party has to offer. Are they redeemable? Sure, most people are. But given how many chances they’ve been given, let’s not hold our breath.