It’s only been a month, and a Donald Trump out of office appears to be a far more dangerous phenomenon to Republican establishment figures than the man they (not so) secretly despised when he was in the White House.
The Trump administration’s day-to-day doings are not the primary focal points of Republican conversation anymore, and GOP politicians are left standing on stage as they are, without costume or cover. Any unbiased analyst – should such a creature still exist in our hyperpartisan times – could quickly point out who is losing the framing battle here.
If You Could Pick Your Enemies
Like him or loathe him, Trump is still Trump, and losing an election has done nothing to diminish his overwhelming popularity among his America First supporters.
The faces of opposition to his role as undisputed party leader have been cast as a 79-year-old Swamp lifer who has been in the U.S. Senate since 1985 and a former proud liberal governor of Massachusetts who loves to posture as the conscience of the GOP. They are joined by the dutiful daughter of George W. Bush’s vice president – a man widely caricatured as the architect of endless war.
Just as in the 2016 Republican primaries, Trump could not have handpicked more perfect foils. If only they could throw Bill Kristol back in the fray and make the picture complete. Well, he’s got that, too. A group calling itself The Republican Accountability Project, starring the Never-Trumper as chairman, is launching a $1 million ad campaign on Fox News in support of the congressional GOPers who voted to impeach Trump in the House and convict him in the Senate.
The ad buy is part of a $50 million overall effort from the organization. Fifty million ways to tie current GOP Trump adversaries to the band of woefully out-of-touch veteran DC “advisers” and think tank wonks that did as much to elevate him in 2015 as his own unconventional fiery personal appeal.
Camping With RINOS
And once again, Trump’s foes are falling back on assumptions that were proven startlingly wrong almost six full years ago. Meaningless decades-old Swamp catchphrases like “We’re a big tent” are being dusted off in defense of the Republicans who totally disregarded their constituents’ wishes and airily voted their “conscience” to punish Trump.
“This Republican Party’s a very big tent. Everyone’s invited in,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said after his colleague, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), survived an effort to strip her of her role as House Republican conference chair.
“Our focus needs to be on reaching the people who may only agree with us 70 or 80% of the time, but still lean Republican, and tell them, ‘Hey, we’re a big-tent party,’” said Sam DeMarco, the GOP chairman in Allegheny County, PA, which includes Pittsburgh, in defense of Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), now facing censure by angry Republicans in his state. “If I can get those people into our tent and to the polls we can win. And only if I win can I govern.”
Compromise and coalition, that’s the way to go. Only if we’re talking about establishment Republicans, that is. The tent is abruptly folded for those who just don’t belong. “Our big tent is not large enough to both accommodate conservatives and kooks,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), playing his self-appointed gatekeeper role, decreed of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) as the big-box media attacked her last month for alleged past beliefs in various conspiracy theories.
The Real Kooks
Here’s what Trump instinctively gets, and these careerists do not: Grassroots Republicans are thoroughly sick of homogenized smiling faces who say all the correct things according to the political rules of the day while doing little to serve the American people. They couldn’t care one whit if Greene once posted on Facebook that the sky is cotton candy so long as she is now fully promoting America First policy positions in her role as an elected representative.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is not considered “kooky” to these base Republicans nearly so much as a group of entrenched Washington politicians conniving to send $10 million in U.S. taxpayer money to gender programs in Pakistan as part of a coronavirus relief bill for suffering Americans.
Greene dropped a hammer on Kristol as he revealed his plans to target her as part of his new campaign. “Perpetual warmongering, pro-abortion Democrats like Bill Kristol are not welcome in the GOP,” she wrote in a Twitter post. “Their neocon reign of death in the womb & across the world in pointless wars is unmatched. These America Last globalists are clinging to relevance because the People have rejected them.”
Being scolded by Mitt Romney is not a death knell in today’s Republican Party. Holding the policy positions he stands for is. Only someone as out of touch as Bill Kristol could fail to grasp this reality.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.