Alan Zendell, November 10, 2021
Today’s Republican Party is like two freight trains on a collision course. Its two factions clearly hate each other. One is tied to Donald Trump, the other despises him and recognizes that he’s an existential threat to the United States. At first glance, one unfortunately supported by media hype, Trumpers appear to be steadily gaining ground, but I don’t buy that. What we see and hear are angry statements and tweets by a handful of unabashed Trump supporters, countered by a smaller handful of real conservatives, and deafening silence from everyone else.
In the House, out of 213 Republicans, fewer than ten are outspoken Trump supporters. Paul Gosar (AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Lauren Boebert (CO), Matt Gaetz (FL), and Mo Brooks (AL) are the loudest. They have a few things in common. They are shrill, profane, and appear to place little value on facts. They support the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen and have all actively attempted to stir up anger among right wing extremists and promote violent demonstrations, up to and including armed insurrection (though they don’t call it that.)
In the Senate, Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) have had the loudest voices, unleashing angry, irrational attacks on everyone from Joe Biden to any Republican who either did not speak up in support of Trump’s lies or supported anything the Democrats tried to pass, even when the overwhelming majority of their constituents wanted and would have benefited from it. They believe pandering to Trump voters will outweigh any negative hangover in voters’ minds that their Senators voted against what they wanted.
With the backdrop of all the pro-Trump noise and the constant litany of anger against “Communist Democrats,” most Republicans in Congress have remained silent. When they have no alternative, they raise their heads just enough to cast votes their leaders require of them, and then crawl back into their holes. But look a little deeper, and you see not a Trump-powered monolith, but a glacier riven with cracks that disintegrates a little more every day.
Kevin McCarthy (CA) is still House Minority Leader only because most of his caucus lacks the courage to stand up to potential primary challenges in next year’s elections. He has repeatedly demonstrated that he never heard the word integrity used in a sentence. No Republican publicly swayed in the wind, changing his tune about Trump whenever the truth became too risky, the way McCarthy has. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) regularly speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He ordered his caucus to block every item in President Biden’s legislative agenda and voted against both the Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better Plan. But back home in Kentucky, he admitted that his state desperately needed both bills to be signed into law and said his constituents supported them and would greatly benefit from their final passage.
That’s what we’ve come to – a Congress in which one party prefers stasis to meeting the obvious needs of the people it represents, supporting insane policies like fighting vaccination mandates. Yet, when the other party shows the courage to move forward without their support, the non-Trump Republicans, who completely sold them out to avoid Trump’s ire, return home to tell voters how much they will benefit from the laws they passed.
On the side of reason were only two House Republicans with the courage and principled convictions to speak out against Trump’s attempts to undermine the Constitution. Adam Kinzinger (IL) was an early voice of conservative principle. Kinzinger never shied away from telling the truth about Trump, and last February, he formed an anti-Trump PAC. Yet, a couple of weeks ago, he announced that he was withdrawing from the game and will not seek re-election. That leaves only Liz Cheney (WY) to speak out against Trump’s atrocities in the House Republican Caucus. Cheney will never back down. In demonstrating her support for the Constitution and ignoring her own personal risk, she convinced even left-leaning centrists like me that her staunchly conservative voice must not be extinguished in the House.
If you look only on the surface, Trump’s eventual dominance of the Republican Party seems almost a foregone conclusion. But not so fast. The vast majority of Republicans in Congress despise everything Trump stands for. Being professional politicians, they’re opportunists, awaiting their chance to pile on while the few with real backbones run point for them. Trump has enormous legal jeopardy, both in the courts and the House Committee investigating January 6th. That will all catch up with him in the coming months, very likely before the 2022 elections become heated. Trump will be indicted in multiple jurisdictions, and the Justice Department will prosecute him as well.
Understanding how cowardice works, I’m confident that when the wolves have been locked back in their cages, our timid Republican friends will eventually use Trump’s legal problems to give them the courage to speak out. The next year is going to be as horrifyingly exciting as a zombie apocalypse. The country’s future may well hinge on which Republican Party emerges from the rubble.