Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) was on Meet the Press yesterday and, unlike most Republican leaders, he was not kissing up to Trump. When asked about Trump's now infamous statement about Republicans not turning out to vote if the party doesn't elevate the Big Lie to its preeminent issue, Hutchinson said "Relitigating 2020 is a recipe for disaster in 2022. Let’s talk about the future. The election is past. It’s been certified. The states made decisions on the integrity of each of their elections and made improvements where need be... It’s about the future. It’s not about the last election. And those kinds of comments are not constructive." On the same program last Sunday, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy (R), said something similar: "If we relitigate 2020 over and over again, it won’t change the result in 2020, but we are sure to lose in 2024. If we choose to look forward, bringing positive solutions to the American people who have needs, we win. If we choose to be bullied, we lose."
This weekend Axios on HBO showed an interview they did with Cassidy and Cassidy, who had voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, said he wouldn't vote for Trump again in 2024. "Trump is the first president in the Republican side at least to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning." And although he mentioned neither Trump, nor Biden, Pelosi nor Dianne Feinstein by name, Cassidy, a gastroenterologist, told Mike Allen that when people get around their ages they begin suffering serious-- and sometimes rapid-- cognitive decline. Many mental health specialists have noticed Trump has become more and more senile over the past 5 years.
Cassidy said he wasn't referring to anyone specifically but that this kind of incipient senility is "usually noticeable. So anybody in a position of responsibility who may potentially be on that slope, that is of concern. And I'm saying this as a doctor. I'm told that there have been senators in the past who, at the end of their Senate terms were senile. I'm told that was true of senators of both parties... We each have a sacred responsibility to the people of the United States. It is not about me. It is about my ability to serve the people." He said he favors cognitive tests for older officials in all 3 branches of government.
Reporting for the NY Times yesterday, Jermey Peters wrote that "The G.O.P.’s ambitions of ending unified Democratic control in Washington in 2022 are colliding with a considerable force that has the ability to sway tens of millions of votes: former President Donald J. Trump’s increasingly vocal demands that members of his party remain in a permanent state of obedience, endorsing his false claims of a stolen election or risking his wrath. In a series of public appearances and statements over the last week, Trump has signaled not only that he plans to work against Republicans he deems disloyal, but also that his meritless claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the White House in 2020 will be his litmus test, going so far as to threaten that his voters will sit out future elections.
Establishment Republicans worry he could cost them competitive seats and "complicate the party’s more immediate goal of winning the governor’s race in Virginia next month. The concern over Trump’s attempts to make all federal elections a referendum on him points to the larger debate among Republicans over what his role should be, as someone who remains singularly popular with the party’s base but is also a liability with swing voters and a motivator for Democrats to turn out.
A Republican Party survey in Georgia found that between 5% and 9% of Republican voters said they would sit out the 2022 election if the state did not conduct another forensic audit of the 2020 election. That would pretty much guarantee reelection to Senator Raphael Warnock and to vulnerable House members Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux and would likely result in Georgia's the first African American female governor: Stacey Abrams. It would also crush far right Trumpist Jody Hice's chance to become Secretary of State. A 10% boycott by Republican base voters would also immediately jeopardize 2 incumbent House Republicans, Buddy Carter and Rick Allen.
Since Trump left office, polls have repeatedly shown that large majorities of Republican voters want him to run in 2024. And roughly 40 percent of Republicans say they consider themselves to be primarily his supporters rather than supporters of the party-- about the same share who said so last November, according to the political research firm Echelon Insights.
Many Republicans don’t seem to want to hear anything critical about him. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center, for instance, highlighted the lack of an appetite for much dissent. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans, Pew found, said their party should not be accepting of elected officials who criticize Trump.
Trump’s recent interference in the Virginia contest-- where polls show the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, narrowly trailing his Democratic rival, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe-- worried advisers to Youngkin’s campaign. They watched as their carefully scripted plan to keep the race focused on their candidate and on claims that Democrats have veered too far left became engulfed by news coverage of the former president praising Youngkin at a political rally last week.
Some Republicans said they feared they were watching a preview of the awkward and unpleasant dilemma their candidates would face for the foreseeable future, as Mr. Trump remains the most popular figure in their party, determining what candidates say and how voters think.
“Here is where Trump is so destructive,” said Barbara Comstock, a former Republican member of Congress who lost her seat in suburban Virginia in 2018. That year, voters in swing districts across the country turned against centrist incumbents like her in a repudiation of Trump.
“He doesn’t want other people to win without groveling to him. That’s the threat,” Comstock added. “It’s not about winning. It’s all about him. And that’s what’s so stupid about Republicans even trying to deal with him, because you never know when he’ll drive the car off the cliff.”
One of the most concerned is Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader.
McConnell has told colleagues that he is concerned Trump’s campaign to relitigate the 2020 election could depress confidence among Republican voters and hurt the party’s chances at winning back the majority it lost this year after Democrats captured Georgia’s two Senate seats. Republican leaders warned Trump at the time that by blaming fraud for his loss, he would convince many of his supporters in Georgia that their votes in the Senate runoff election on Jan. 5 wouldn’t count, deterring them from participating.
Republican critics of Trump said that history was repeating itself. “Republicans should have learned this lesson after the Georgia debacle,” said Scott Reed, a veteran party strategist who has worked to elect Republicans to the Senate for three decades.
Reed said that the former president’s comments about Republicans not voting “should warrant a sanction from the Republican National Committee.” He warned, “It will impact the 2022 midterms severely.”
The tension between McConnell and Trump has escalated lately, as the former president has ratcheted up his attacks on the minority leader, accusing McConnell of “folding” to Democrats in a recent agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. He called for the leader’s ouster in a recent interview with Fox News, saying, “Mitch is not the guy.”
Trump’s allies did not deny that he was content to see Republicans pay the ultimate political price for what he and a significant portion of his voters saw as disloyalty.
“President Trump is saying: ‘Hey, I’m putting you guys on notice. My people aren’t coming out,’” said Stephen Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, who has been using his podcast to further amplify Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. “There could not be a bigger shot across the establishment bow.”
But the harder Trump’s allies push their election fraud claims, the harder it becomes to satisfy their most hard-core followers. Even [Marjorie Traitor] Greene, who is as far-right and pro-Trump as they come in the Republican Party, cannot seem to always please the fringe. Lately, she has been feuding online with L. Lin Wood, an Atlanta attorney who helped Trump sow doubts over his loss in Georgia, over which of them truly represents the Trump movement. Wood has accused her of not doing enough to uncover instances of voter fraud. She has said that Wood is “not one of us.”
Such radicalization comes at a cost, said David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida who is critical of the former president. At a time when the larger political trends are pointing toward trouble for the Democratic Party in 2022, he said, Trump’s actions risk interfering with what should be a good environment for Republicans.
“This should be a 100 percent, straight-up referendum on Biden,” Jolly said. “Instead, you have Trump the narcissist trying to inject himself into what should be a glide path for Republicans to an incredibly successful election, by making it all about him.”
In his interview with David Barsamian last week, Noam Chomsky spoke about the "social collapse of a party that has simply gone rogue." He quoted a conservative analyst for the Financial Times who has noted that "the Republican Party has become a group of crazed radicals dedicated to reactionary policies."
The Republicans have been holding the country hostage by refusing to agree to the perfectly normal procedure of raising the debt ceiling to account for things that have already been done. When Trump was in office, he made a huge increase in the deficit with his lavish gifts to the rich; the Democrats went along with it, raised the debt ceiling every time it was necessary. Republicans won’t do it. In fact, they finally just now agreed, as long as conditions were imposed to block any form of mandate for small and medium-size businesses.
In other words, you want to harm the employees in a restaurant? Feel free to do it. It’s your right to harm them. That’s the Republican Party. They also tried to cut off funding for Afghan refugees. I mean, the political leadership is just a gang of sadists. And the shamelessness is indescribable.
... That’s why large parts of the Republican Party are denying global warming. If you tune in to Fox News and Breitbart, you’re listening to the leadership of the Republican Party. That’s all you hear. Maybe the virus is a bioweapon created by the Chinese to attack Americans. That’s about 35 percent of Republicans. Maybe Bill Gates is trying to put a chip in your head so he can control you. Maybe the government is run by an elite group of sadistic pedophiles who are trying to torture children. That’s about 25 percent of Republicans. If you’re stuck in that bubble, and that’s what you’re hearing from a political leadership that has lost even minimal commitment to the functioning of democracy, these are the results you get.
...There’s plenty to condemn about the Democrats. They’re a political party that does plenty of wrong things. They’re not a rogue insurgency that is committed to serving a narrow constituency of extreme wealth and doesn’t give a damn how much they harm the country and the world. That’s not a political party anymore. It’s off the spectrum. You can rank [the Republicans] among the ultraright parties in Europe with neo-fascist origins.