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Media is still in denial about extremist takeover of GOP
It's Trump's party now, and Mitch McConnell knows it
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Only 10 Republicans in the House voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection, while only seven voted to convict him in the Senate. All have faced censure by the GOP in their respective states, or calls for a primary challenge, or both.
Only eleven Republicans in the House voted to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon cult Trumpist from Georgia who promoted the idea of executing the Speaker of the House, from her committee assignments.
And in Greene’s state last night, Governor Brian Kemp — facing threats from Trump, still furious at him for not intervening in Georgia’s election results — signed into law a radical, Trump-inspired voter suppression bill that relies on the Big Lie. It demands stricter voter ID for absentee ballots, diminishes drop boxes, and ominously gives more power to county election boards while taking power from the secretary of state. It’s one of dozens of such bills pushed by Republicans in states across the country — all inspired by Trump’s loss in 2020 and aiming to keep people from voting or discounting votes.
Yet, you still see media reporting things like this from the Washington Post:
The early entrance of so many zealously pro-Trump candidates — all of whom have endorsed Trump’s bogus claims of rampant election fraud — is an early challenge for top Republican leaders in Washington as they seek to regain the Senate majority from Democrats and deal with their own internal divisions between those in the party who remain loyal to Trump at all costs and those who want to forge a GOP identity distinct from the former president.
Initially, the story’s headline stated the “pro-Trump” candidates were creating “mid-term headaches” for the GOP, as if this was some minor annoyance. (The headline was later changed to say, “early tensions.”)
The premise of the piece, like a similar one in the New York Times yesterday as well — Republicans Fear Flawed Candidates Could Imperil Key Senate Seats — is that this is a battle between the mainstream establishment that is still very much in control and a fringe element trying to make inroads. The fringe element is “those loyal to Trump,” trying to topple those who want to “forge a GOP identity” beyond Trump.
They position Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who spoke out against Trump for inspiring the insurrection, though he voted against convicting him in his impeachment trial — as the heart and soul of the party, as leading the anti-Trump status quo that is maintaining power against these extremists trying to take over.
But all of this is an absolute delusion — and McConnell knows it too, as he defends the priorities of the extremists, like the radical attacks on voting rights.
Trump-hugging defenders of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol, like Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and senators who voted to overturn the election and helped ignite that event, like Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, reflect the base of the GOP and wield the influence in the Senate. The chair of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee itself — Senator Rick Scott of Florida, responsible for recruiting and raising money for GOP Senate candidates — voted to overturn the election at Trump’s behest.
The “pro-Trump” Republicans aren’t a fringe on the outside trying to get in — they are the central force inside the party, guiding it, making decisions and pushing out the establishment types. Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio and Richard Shelby of Alabama have decided not to seek re-election in ‘22 — establishment figures who’d certainly have to deal with a far-right Trump-backed primary challenger because, though they all voted against impeaching Trump, they’ve gingerly criticized him as well. And Trumpists who back the Big Lie are now running in the GOP primaries to fill their seats.
And yet, many in the media make as if it’s merely a “headache” — the Times piece used “headaches” too — for a non-Trumpian establishment that is still in power and managed to maintain a grip through Trump’s tenure.
The Post even used Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas as an example of McConnell having kept establishment influence in the party. Marshall, who won the Senate seat in 2020, was McConnell’s choice in the 2020 primary race over Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who led Trump’s ill-fated voter fraud commission and was Trump’s choice. But Marshall has turned out to be among the Trumpiest of GOP freshman since he took office. Along with newly-elected Cynthia Loomis of Wyoming, he too voted to overturn the election results.
Just like Marjorie Taylor Greene in the House, they are the new leaders in the GOP, taking orders from Trump, who will be bringing more of their kind into the party. It may indeed cost the GOP, preventing it from taking back the Senate — because Trump rarely helps Republicans when he’s not on the ballot himself — as Trumpism is driving the GOP further into the ditch. Johnson is up for re-election in ‘22, and Democrats are energized and think they can beat him. And, as the Times and Post stories underscore, the extremist GOP candidates running to win primaries in the open seats in Alabama, Missouri and Ohio could win the primaries and then lose in the general elections to Democrats.
But whether or not that happens, Trump and Trump loyalists, including QAnon supporters and defenders of the insurrectionists, already control the GOP. It’s why Trump was able to inspire an insurrection against the Capitol and get away with it without being convicted in an impeachment trial.
McConnell’s only concern is getting back control of the Senate again; he couldn’t care less about inhibiting Trumpism, which surrounds him. Reporters do a huge disservice when they talk about this as some sort of battle for the soul of the party. The battle ended long ago, and Trump and his extremists won.