Republicans in the House of Representatives remain enthralled to Donald Trump and fearful of his base. On Thursday, 95% of the chamber’s Republicans refused to strip the freshman member Marjorie Taylor Greene – a gun-brandishing, hate-spewing, conspiracy-monger – of her committee assignments. The deadly aftermath of the 6 January insurrection changed nothing.
Trump is out of office but his spirit lives on. The anger and resentment of the Republican rank-and-file will likely define the party’s trajectory in the coming months and years. QAnon is now a pillar of the party, as much as the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, may disavow knowledge of its existence.
Greene’s sins are real, not imagined. Over the years she has blamed California’s wildfires on a Jewish laser beam from space, claimed 9/11 was an inside job, and suggested that school shootings were staged. In 2018 and 2019 she endorsed social media comments that appeared to support the assassination or execution of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. (Recently, Greene has partly walked back some of her more disturbing past remarks.)
Sadly, the Republican party has morphed into a fever swamp fueled by racially driven animus tethered to a fear and loathing of modernity. A normal political party would not have someone like Greene holding office. But Republicans these days function like a fringe grouping.
Likewise, the mob that attacked the Capitol cannot simply be discounted as an outburst of conspiratorial rage. The insurrectionist horde left a trail of dead and wounded. Military veterans, real estate brokers and seemingly upstanding members of America’s middle class filled the rioters’ ranks. Deep-pocketed Republican donors reportedly helped make the carnage possible.
Yet the discontented-disconnect that propelled Trump’s 2016 electoral upset threatens to undermine Republican efforts to reclaim the House and Senate. In January, tens of thousands of voters exited the Republican party. In Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Utah, the party suffered a cumulative loss of more than 30,000 voters from its rolls.
Politics is about addition, not subtraction. An exodus of college-educated suburban moms and dads is not what McCarthy needs to wrest the speaker’s gavel. Likewise, this hemorrhaging will not assist Mitch McConnell in dethroning Chuck Schumer from his perch as the Senate majority leader.
Liz Cheney retaining the no 3 slot in the Republican House leadership does not alter this pocked and toxic landscape. Cheney’s hard-fought victory over 61 benighted colleagues is testament to her own grit and the desire of the Republican party’s top-guns to keep the existing power structure intact. Nothing more.
Cheney and Greene each carried the day among the House Republicans, but the Georgia freshman actually garnered more of their backing. Cheney’s upward arc is done, while Greene is free to embark on an endless fundraising binge and tweet to her heart’s content. Freedom can be another word for nothing left to lose.
Indeed, on the state level, religious-like devotion to Trump is the operative creed of the realm. Those who refuse to kiss the ring are the new heretics.
Arizona Republicans censured Cindy McCain, the late senator’s wife, for backing Joe Biden. They also blasted Doug Ducey, the state’s Republican governor, for refusing to steal the election.
In Wyoming, 10 Republican county organizations have censured Cheney for supporting Trump’s impeachment, and more are expected in the coming weeks. Already, Cheney faces a primary challenge.
Meanwhile, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse confronts possible censure in his home state. He earned their wrath for condemning Trump’s efforts to subvert democracy. Once upon a time, Sasse wrote a book subtitled Why We Hate Each Other.
For the record, Sasse is one of only five Senate Republicans who opposed dismissing impeachment charges against the 45th president. He also declined to back Trump four years ago and last November too. A church-going Presbyterian, Sasse framed things this way: “Politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude.”
Even now, Trump is the top choice for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination. Beyond that, more than three-quarters of Republicans believe there was widespread voter fraud despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. For many, the truth is too much to handle.
Regardless, Trump’s big lie has taken root and will not soon disappear. The demographic tectonics and disparities that spurred Trump to power are still with us. Biden’s election didn’t change that.
Practically speaking, only a string of consecutive electoral losses may snap the Republicans out of their enchantment with the ex-television reality show host. Until then, Trump will remain the Republican party’s dominant force. In Greene’s words, it is his party, “it doesn’t belong to anybody else.”
Extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene are the real face of the new Republican party Wire Services/ The Guardian.