Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) aptly illustrates the added burdens an America First populist movement faces in toppling the two-party Uniparty game still going strong in Washington, D.C. The heft of incumbency and the powerful urge to elect red to stave off blue often force change-hungry Republican voters to send the temporary adherents of the cause back where their hearts really belong – the feeding troughs of the Swamp.
New Orleans political commentator Jeff Crouere on Feb. 22 penned a strong op-ed in The Advocate on Cassidy’s utter shamelessness:
“In his reelection campaign last year, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge presented one major message to the voters of his state. In countless television and radio commercials, Cassidy touted his endorsement by President Donald Trump. The message was clear: Trump and Cassidy were close allies, and the senator fervently supported the president’s agenda.”
Two-Faced on the Double
Cassidy won in a state Trump carried in a landslide. The other shoe quickly dropped. Crouere notes that Cassidy “was one of the first Republicans in Congress to declare Joe Biden the president, despite Trump’s ongoing legal challenges in multiple states.” He then voted to convict Trump at his second impeachment trial. But even that was not enough for the senator who had pledged his loyalty to Trump right up to the moment polls closed on Nov. 3.
Cassidy took to ABC News and its ludicrously partisan former Democratic Party operative, George Stephanopoulos, to slam Trump. “I think his force wanes,” Cassidy cooed. “The Republican Party is more than just one person. The Republican Party is about ideas.”
The breathtaking immediacy of Cassidy’s betrayal of his voters is rooted in his knowledge that 2026 is light-years away. As Crouere put it:
“There is no recall mechanism for members of the U.S. Senate, so Cassidy has six years to hope that Louisiana voters forget what he did.”
Cassidy assumes he can treat America First as a faction or particularist coalition instead of the party-changing force it claims to be. Establishment Republicans hope to give Trump backers the same treatment as pro-lifers in their party. It’s the MAGA equivalent of tossing around empty phrases about “the sanctity of life” every time an election rolls around only to get right back to the donor-fueled insider spending upon being returned to Capitol Hill.
Examples Have Been Set
He’s not necessarily wrong. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) played an eerily similar game, deeply irritating Trump backers with his obdurate antipathy to the then-president’s core policies in non-election years only to suddenly discover his love for them once it was time to face voters again.
Like Cassidy today, a comfortably ensconced Tillis In August 2017 sat down with establishment TV host Chris Wallace at Fox News to publicly dismiss Trump as the leader of the Republican Party. In February 2019, he wrote an op-ed or a prominent Washington newspaper, declaring that he would vote in favor of a Senate resolution condemning Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on our southern border with Mexico.
Tillis spoke out against tariffs, supported an increase in foreign guest-worker visas at the expense of American workers, and even expressed his opposition to Trump’s Border Wall from January 2017 through early 2019.
Then 2020 approached, and he jumped on the Trump Train again like the pollical version of some 1890s hobo. He defended tough tariffs against China and espoused a newfound concern for border security. It was enough to garner a June 2019 endorsement from Trump, allowing Tillis to stave off any serious primary challenge and get to a general election contest, where he was able to lean on the need to “stop the liberal Democrats” to attract Republican votes.
And here is the MAGA dilemma in a nutshell. Tillis, a terrible candidate for a party whose grassroots is fully energized by Trump’s America First cause, very likely would have lost to Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham were it not for a late-breaking texting adultery scandal that grievously harmed Cunningham’s campaign.
If Tillis had gone down to defeat, a valuable message would have been sent to establishment Republicans that you had best earn voter trust by your actions in office. Instead, a great many Trump loyalists expressed joy that Tillis kept the seat red as control of the Senate teetered on a knife-edge.
And what did Tillis take away from all this?
He was one of just four Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee who voted to advance Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland out of committee on March 1. This despite Garland refusing to state that illegal aliens were committing a crime by crossing our borders and equating Trump and his supporters with Timothy McVeigh and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing during an astonishing Feb. 22 nomination hearing.
Both Cassidy and Tillis are happily back to their old ways. Don’t expect them to raise their heads out of the trough again until some time around spring 2025.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.