A journalist explains the 3 bad choices Republican officials are left with post-Trump

A journalist explains the 3 bad choices Republican officials are left with post-Trump
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are greeted by Ohio U.S. Senator Rob Portman Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and other state and local officials. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago last week to meet with former President Donald Trump, it was obvious that he didn't view Trumpism as a thing of the past. Journalist Joan E. Greve examines Trump's hold on the GOP in an article published by The Guardian this week, noting the frustrations of some conservatives who wish Republicans could move on from Trumpism.

"Donald Trump may have left the White House, but his shadow still looms large in Washington and the Republican Party as the Senate prepares for his second impeachment trial," Greve explains. "The 50 Republicans in the Senate are grappling with how to appease Trump's supporters, who still make up a hefty share of the Party's base, while acknowledging that the former president incited the 6 January attack on the U.S. Capitol."

Republicans in Congress, Greve adds, find themselves "tethered to Trump" even though he "oversaw the loss of both chambers of Congress and the White House."

"Trump's continued power over Republican lawmakers was on full display last week, as 45 senators voted to pre-emptively dismiss the impeachment trial," Greve observes. "The senators avoided defending Trump's behavior on 6 January, instead arguing that it was unconstitutional to impeach a former president." (Trump was, in fact, impeached by the House while he was president. The Senate refused to start the trial until after he was out of office.)

But according to conservative CNN pundit Tara Setmayer — a former Republican activist who left the GOP in November — that Senate vote was "the most craven example" of Republicans in Congress being unwilling to stand up to Trump.

Setmayer told The Guardian, "It really is mind-boggling when you look at how many opportunities the party has had to take the exit ramp and get away from Trumpism. The result has become that the Republican Party now is an anti-democratic, illiberal, pro-seditionist party."

Greve points out that Republicans are still terrified of Trump because he remains "overwhelmingly popular with the party's base," noting that a recent NBC News poll — one taken after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building — found that 87% of Republicans still approved of Trump's performance as president.

According to Greve, "Trump's popularity has left Republican lawmakers with three main options: stay in the former president's good graces, leave office, or risk getting primaried by a Trumpian opponent. This dynamic played out last week, as one prominent Republican senator announced his retirement and a pro-impeachment congresswoman faced the threat of a pro-Trump primary challenge."

The GOP senator who announced his retirement is Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, and the pro-impeachment GOP congresswoman is Rep. Liz Cheney — who Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida and other Trump sycophants would like to see replaced by a pro-Trump Republican in 2022. Gaetz traveled to Wyoming last week to speak at an anti-Cheney rally.

Setmayer is quite pessimistic about the future of the GOP — at least as long as it is chained to Trump and his agenda.

"There's a healthy debate about, should we just let the Republican Party wither and die on the Trumpism vine and start a new party?" Setmayer told The Guardian. "Because this path for the Republican Party is untenable."

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