'A sad state of affairs': How 'mainstream' Republicans are enabling Trump’s extreme agenda
When Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — once the third highest ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives — lost a GOP congressional primary to the ultra-MAGA, Donald Trump-backed Harriet Hageman in August, the takeaway for Republicans was clear: If you’re running for reelection in a deep red state, don’t cross Trump. Offending Trump hasn’t been the political kiss of death for all GOP incumbents in the 2022 midterms: In Georgia, conservative Republican Gov. Brian Kemp defeated a Trump-supported primary challenger, former Sen. David Perdue, by a whopping 52 percent and entered the general election with considerable momentum. Polls have been showing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who is quite popular among liberals and progressives, trailing Kemp by single digits.
But then, Kemp is in a swing state that Trump lost in 2020. Cheney’s state, Wyoming, is deep red. And in light of Cheney’s fate, countless Republicans — even though who aren’t overly MAGA — avoid criticizing Trump.
Establishment Republicans who are terrified of Trump and “enable” him are the target of a biting opinion column by Never Trump conservative Matt Lewis. In a September 23 column for the Daily Beast, Lewis argues that MAGA Republicans who adore Trump aren’t the only ones who are to blame for his stranglehold on the GOP — establishment Republicans have also been major Trump “enablers.”
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Lewis stresses that after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, establishment Republicans had a chance to throw Trump under the bus. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Lewis recalls, criticized Trump at first but later headed to Mar-a-Lago to make amends — and even though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lambasted Trump after the attack, he voted “not guilty” in Trump’s second impeachment trial.
“After Cheney urged McConnell to publicly support impeachment,” Lewis explains, “McConnell settled on a more passive strategy: ‘Let’s just ignore him,’ he reportedly said. This inert approach never works out. The idea that ignoring Trump will cause him to go away is reminiscent of the GOP official who, sometime around November 10, famously asked: ‘What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?’…. It’s certainly reasonable to think that a strong and unwavering united front from McConnell and McCarthy might have made the difference.”
Lewis continues, “What is arguably even more dispiriting, however, is that so many members of so-called Team Normal —
Republicans who correctly believe Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States — are continuing to enable not just Trump, but a very un-American idea that Trump normalized: election denial.”
Lewis points to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin as a glaring example of “Team Normal’s” willingness to “enable” extremists in his party. Youngkin has been campaigning for Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, a far-right “Stop the Steal” MAGA Republican and conspiracy theorist who falsely claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump.
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“(Youngkin) was elected in 2021 by riding culture-war issues like opposition to critical race theory, but he’s basically an establishment Republican, in the mold, temperament-wise, of Mitt Romney,” Lewis writes. “So why was it reported this week that he’s going to Arizona to campaign for election denier Kari Lake?.... And Youngkin isn’t the only member of Team Normal backing Lake. During the primary campaign, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called Lake a ‘fake’ who was ‘misleading voters’ by putting on an ‘act.’ Then, after she won the Republican nomination, he endorsed her.”
Even Republicans who don’t buy into the Big Lie, Lewis laments, are willing to support Republicans who do.
“In 2020, Ducey earned our respect by standing up to Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the Arizona election results,” Lewis writes. “So why is he abdicating his responsibility in 2022? We might also direct this question at Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who likewise, bravely resisted Trump’s attempt to overthrow his state’s 2020 election results by pressuring state officials to ‘find the votes.’ These days, however, The Bulwark’s Amanda Carpenter writes that Kemp is standing ‘shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the state’s top election deniers. That man is his running mate, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, Burt Jones.’ At this point, I’d be surprised to find a prominent Republican who isn’t backing a proponent of The Big Lie.”
Lewis also laments that the “level of depravity infecting today’s GOP” is evident in the fact that only nine Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives — Cheney and eight others — were willing to vote for a bill designed to strengthen the Electoral Count Act of 1887.
“And it gets worse,” Lewis writes. “As Politico notes, most of the nine Republicans who voted for the bill ‘have either lost their primaries or announced their retirements.’ It truly is a sad state of affairs. For those of us holding on to hope that someday, normal Republican leaders will retake their party, I’m starting to wonder how many even exist.”
Lewis continues, “In the book of Genesis, Abraham bargains with the Lord, getting Him to agree to save the city of Sodom if he could find as few as ten righteous people. Today’s Republican Party couldn’t live up to that low standard, either.”
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