Could Donald Trump’s efforts to steal the party leadership (and money), along with settling scores, lead to a political disaster for Republican Congressional lawmakers in 2022 and 2024?
But then, there’s always been something different about Trump and the Republican Party—in part because he seems to have a stronger connection to its voters than the party leadership does. Even after he won the nomination in 2016, four of the five previous GOP presidential nominees refused to endorse him, as did fully a fifth of the Republican senators … and he won a higher percentage of Republican voters that November than did Reagan. This January after the Capitol riot, seven senators of his own party voted to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors, and Trump’s support among rank-and-file party members was effectively unshaken.
Once Trump survived, the party found itself having to pay respects again, and not just with the silver bowl Scott handed him earlier this week. The same Republican Senate leader who denounced Trump for a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and held him “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the January 6 riot duly said he would support him as the 2024 nominee. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and presidential wannabe Nikki Haley have executed even more breathtaking pirouettes, from condemnation to supplication. They and other Republicans seem to have looked at the insurrection as the final straw—the climax of behavior so egregious that it finally gave them free rein to call out the president—and then watched, to their horror, as Trump, like Freddy Krueger, emerged whole and ready to inflict fatal political wounds on those who defied him….
For Republican leaders, the urgent call is to find some way toward a truce of sorts. If the party can manage to hold itself together, they know full well that history will be on their side as they seek to retake the House and Senate, given what normally happens to a president’s party in the midterms.
They also know what happens when a headline figure who becomes power hungry, or really doesn’t care about the collateral damage, goes after members of his own party. When FDR tied to “purge” Democrats in 1938, the party lost 72 House seats and seven Senate seats. Theodore Roosevelt’s third-party run against Taft doomed the Republican to a humiliating third-place finish in 1912.
Trump, too, took down the Republican establishment in 2016, and seems completely unchastened by his loss in 2020. Any plea to Trump to turn down the heat ignores a lifetime’s worth of behavior. Asking Trump not to insult those who have offended him is liking asking him not to exhale….