Well over a century ago, liberal John Stuart Mill famously dubbed Britain’s Tories the Stupid Party, an insult that has carried over to the Republican Party in America, which has proved itself over many decades to be well-deserving of the title.
From GOP leaders’ sleepy contentment with permanent minority status in Congress before Ronald Reagan’s arrival on the scene, to Republican presidents’ appointment of disastrous Supreme Court justices ranging from Roe v. Wade author Harry Blackmun (Richard Nixon) to John Paul Stevens (Gerald Ford) to David Souter (George H. W. Bush), this is a party that knows how to bring smiles to liberal Democrats’ faces.
But what is happening now may take the prize for stupidity, as a number of Republican leaders, many of whom know better, seek to use last week’s criminal invasion of the Capitol to have the party de-Trumpify itself and banish millions of voters who never voted Republican until Donald Trump came along, and after his four years in the White House would walk over hot coals for the 45th president.
Living up to her critics’ caricature of her as a bulwark of the establishment was third-ranking House Republican Liz Cheney of Wyoming, daughter of the former vice president. She and nine other House Republicans joined with Democrats in impeaching the president for a second time Wednesday. Cheney claimed, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell refused to convene an emergency session to start an impeachment trial before the Biden presidency begins on Jan. 20, after which Democrats will control a 50-50 Senate. But he has not said how he would vote, and is reportedly furious with Trump. GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, the unsuccessful 2012 presidential nominee, seem likely to vote to convict.
Such a trial, by the way, would be unconstitutional. Former Judge J. Michael Luttig of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, quoted by Vice President Mike Pence in his letter defending his decision not to contest the disputed electoral votes, wrote on Tuesday in the Washington Post that “the Senate’s only power under the Constitution is to convict — or not — an incumbent president.”
According to the House’s single impeachment article, Trump’s high crime/misdemeanor was that “he reiterated false claims that ‘we won this election, and we won it by a landslide,’ ” and told a crowd that “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country any more.”
Hmm. According to Barack Obama, delivering what CNN called a “scathing campaign speech” before a crowd in Philadelphia for Joe Biden on Oct. 21 and referring to a summer of violent demonstrations by the left, “That’s how this country was founded, protesting injustice … We can’t abandon those protesters who inspired us. We’ve got to channel their activism into action. We can’t just imagine a better future; we’ve got to fight for it.”
Had Trump said Obama’s exact words instead of his own, is there any doubt the House would instead be impeaching him because he “told a crowd that ‘we’ve got to fight’ and turn ‘activism into action’ ”?
Obama, unlike Trump, did not use the word “peacefully” in his speech. “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” the president told the massive crowd at the Ellipse.
Trump also made it clear that by “fight” he meant nothing violent. He said “fight” over 20 times, always metaphorically. He said of Rudy Giuliani, “He’s got guts. He fights.” He said of Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican, and other Trump-supporting members of Congress, “They’re out there fighting the House. Guys are fighting.” Of weaker Republicans, Trump told the crowd, “we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don’t fight.”
Calling on a crowd to “walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women,” while “probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness – you have to show strength, and you have to be strong” can hardly be called inciting the storming of the Capitol.
Furthermore, investigative journalist John Solomon reports “there is significant evidence” that the Capitol Police, the FBI and the New York Police Department “all had prior warning there was going to be an attack on the Capitol.” If so, that means House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader McConnell either knew or should have known, but Solomon’s Freedom of Information Act request for the police reports was immediately denied. As Solomon asks, “How could Trump incite an attack that had already been pre-planned and was in motion before his speech ended?”
Banishing 74 Million Voters
A better case might be made that the overall contesting of the election results risked violence – but then isn’t failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams also guilty? For two years now, she has charged racism, refused to recognize the Republican who defeated her as the legitimate governor of Georgia, and used the outrage she engendered after that loss to help Democrats win this month’s two Senate runoffs and give her party full power in Washington?
Abrams used language at least as strong as Trump’s, claiming “the systematic disenfranchisement of more than a million voters” and “a deliberate and intentional disinvestment and, I think, destruction of the administration of elections in the state of Georgia.”
What purpose could banishing Trump from the party serve? If the GOP in 2024 nominates someone not viewed as representing the 74 million Americans who voted to reelect the president, it would be asking for the forming of a MAGA Party that would spoil presidential elections and ensure Democratic victory for the next three election cycles.
Don’t forget that in 1992, third-party candidate Ross Perot garnered an astounding 19% of the popular vote, stealing enough support from the elder President Bush to allow Bill Clinton to win. And Perot would have received far more had he not exited the race in July, then re-entered in October. Yet he was able to end Bush’s presidency with less than 20 million votes – only a slice of Trump’s 74 million. The populist Texas tycoon capitalized on elements of the same anti-GOP establishment sentiment that now animates tens of millions of Trump voters, such as Republicans not fighting hard enough to cut taxes.
If Trump feels he has been treated unfairly by Republicans, in either the impeachment or being denied the 2024 nomination, he – or Don Jr. or Ivanka, or even a MAGA loyalist like, say, White House trade chief Peter Navarro – could follow in Perot’s footsteps and assure a Democrat victory four years from now, and in subsequent elections. And it would take a lot less than Perot’s 19% to shift enough electoral votes to prevent the GOP from winning the White House. What’s more, a third party self-styled MAGA candidate could emerge and spoil the election even without any Trump blessing, if Trump’s followers are dissed badly enough.
Republicans, who have often celebrated their party as a “big tent” on abortion issues, will be massacred by MAGA if the tent is not big enough in 2024 to include the movement.
‘Trump Voters Will Pick The Next Republican Nominee’
Issues & Insights asked veteran pollster John McLaughlin for his analysis. McLaughlin’s clients have included the Trump campaign, Jeb Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the British Conservative Party. “It is very hard to run third party,” McLaughlin stressed. “Ballot access is very hard and expensive; it can cost as much as $500 million. And a third party run is not a prescription for success.”
McLaughlin pointed to his poll earlier this week of 800 battleground voters finding that 60% of all voters consider it “another waste of time and money” to impeach the President, with 77% believing Congress should make COVID its priority while only 23% prefer impeaching Trump. Meanwhile, a CBS News/YouGov poll this week found 85% of Republicans opposing impeachment.
Looking to 2024, a November poll by McLaughlin found Trump dwarfing the rest of any possible Republican field for the nomination, with 53% versus a mere 9% for Vice President Mike Pence, and 4% each for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Romney.
“President Trump or Trump coalition candidates dominate the 2024 leaders,” McLaughlin told I&I. “With or without President Trump running, Trump voters will pick the next Republican nominee. The establishment, Mitt Romney-type candidates will be crushed.”
On Fox News on Tuesday, author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza warned, “the traditional Republican Party by itself cannot win a majority” and the MAGA movement alone cannot win either. “But together, they have the potential of winning a majority” as they unite rural, working-class, and suburban America, winning “the heart of the country.”
D’Souza adds that “foolishly, Mitch McConnell and the traditional Republican Party are making this easy” for the left as it divides this GOP coalition. “Driving a wedge between the traditional GOP and the MAGA movement – this is what the left is all about right now. This is the key to their success.”
It was Aesop, 26 centuries ago, who first imparted the wisdom that “united we stand, divided we fall.” Some prominent Republicans appear too stupid to understand what even a child knows from fables.
— Written by Thomas McArdle