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The GOP: A Party In Search Of An Identity-- Anything Will Do, As Long As It Can Win



Susan Collins (ME) was one of 7 Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump, the other 6 being Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (NE) and Pat Toomey (PA). Murkowski is the only one up for reelection and her state party has censured her and pretty much dumped her and is coalescing around a sociopath named Kelly Tshibaka. Burr, who is retiring, was censured by the North Carolina state GOP (unanimously). Cassidy isn't retiring and his state party also unanimously censured him. Romney, who was roundly booed at his party's state convention, missed being censured by the state GOP (711-798) but has been censured by at least two Utah counties, Washington and Weber. Pat Toomey is retiring but has been censured by several county Republican Parties, including his home county, Lehigh. The state part voted to rebuke him, a step down from censure. Same for Sasse-- he was rebuked but not censured. Collins missed being censured by the Maine GOP but a couple of counties have censured her, Aroostook and Piscataquis counties.


Now the Democrats need 10 votes to get around Trump's demand that the GOP stop the sedition commission, as well as McConnell's pledge to filibuster it to death. Deceitful as ever, Collins appeared on ABC News' This Week yesterday to pretend it could pass, claiming she would vote for it if the Democrats agree to two caveats they have already agreed to-- wrapping up the investigation by the end of the year and bipartisan staffing. Collins: "I strongly support the creation of an independent commission. I believe there are many unanswered questions about the attacks on the Capitol on Jan. 6." Burr has already said he won't vote for it no matter what the Democrats agree to.


I'm guessing she and Romney would vote for it but none of the others. Scott Brown is no longer a senator. Trump appointed him ambassador to New Zealand and on State of the Union yesterday, he told his former colleagues that Trump "absolutely... bears responsibility" for the 1/6 insurrection. "To have a commission like this to find out who was responsible, what went wrong, to make sure it never happens again, it should be a no-brainer... You look at what happened on 9/11 when we were attack by foreign terrorists and we wanted to find out immediately: where was the breakdown, what happened and why. Well, this is no different. They weren't tourists. They weren't visiting just to have fun."


Yesterday, Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) was on Fox News Sunday where he pretty much came out and said Kevin McCarthy is a liar: "I do think that Kevin has failed to tell the truth to the Republicans and to the American people, and it pains me to say it and it's not like I enjoy standing up and saying this... My party to this point has said things like it was hugs and kisses, it was ANTIFA and BLM-- it was anything but what it was, which was a Trump-inspired insurrection on the Capitol and people deserve to hear the truth... I think it'll go to 2022 and we’ll look like we're just sitting here denying reality and facts."


Meanwhile Washington Post reporters Scherer and Josh Dawsey wrote about how the GOP is trying to define a new governing coalition, marrying the traditional mainstream conservative GOP (the greed and selfishness wing) to Trumpist fascism (hatred and bigotry wing). They noted that in the last 2 weeks Republican leaders have continued publicly fellating Trump at every opportunity while "A new generation of Trumpist acolytes-- such as Missouri attorney Mark McCloskey, who became famous for drawing a gun on Black Lives Matters protesters-- have announced their intention to run for high office with a set of Trump issues that motivate them. McCloskey has announced plans to run for the Senate. The moves pose a threat to the party’s efforts to reclaim moderate, largely college-educated voters whom were turned off by Trump, while muddying the party’s efforts to shift the national focus to the less popular parts of Democratic policies. They also mark a continued repudiation of the orthodoxy that last restored Republicans to power and governed the party for two generations."


Republican leaders have been alarmed by GOP-leaning voters moving away from the traditional conservative political conversation. Some even showed early support for parts of President Biden’s policy agenda, including another round of government checks for Americans, which Trump also supported, and plans for a massive infrastructure spending bill paid for with tax increases.
That has left Republicans wrestling to merge their past revolutions with their current one.
“How do we marry the Party of Reagan with the Party of Trump?” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), one of the party’s most influential new strategists, when asked about the focus of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus of lawmakers he leads.
A recent poll by the National Republican Congressional Committee, released to GOP members of Congress and obtained by the Washington Post, uncovered just how palatable higher taxes are among voters if they feed the populist anger against wealthy interests.
Voters in battleground House districts were split on Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. When it was noted the plan would be paid for “by raising corporate taxes and raising taxes on the wealthiest families,” support for it grew.
The same poll found 3 in 4 voters in battleground districts agreed with the statements: “The power of a few elites and special interests rigs the system against regular people” and “Government is run by the wealthy and big corporations that [are] only looking out for themselves, not us.”
Trump was able to push away from GOP traditions, ride that populist anger and marry it to a zest for culture battles that resonated among a wider swath of voters. Trump advisers said he was totally unconcerned about spending, which was an animating issue of the tea party, sometimes remarking that he wouldn’t be around to pay the debt, urged aides to “run the presses” and often pushed for packages with higher prices than some of his more conservative aides wanted. In a sign that his position was persuasive, the House GOP caucus voted in March to once again allow members to push for earmarks that spend federal money on specific projects they favor, reversing its tea party-era opposition.
In an effort to reorient the party away from the diverging priorities, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Banks have called for a new framing of the GOP around class divisions.
“Corporate America is [the] Democratic Party,” McCarthy said in a late April interview with the conservative think tank American Compass, laying out the new message: “the American worker is the Republican Party.”
Banks considers it a mistake, for instance, that the last Republican tax bill included permanent cuts for corporations but only temporary cuts for people. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found nearly 1 in 3 Republicans support raising the corporate tax again, from 21 percent to 28 percent, as Biden has proposed. GOP leaders in Washington have refused to consider an increase.
“That told working-class Americans that cutting corporate rates is more important than individuals and families,” said Banks, who also opposes raising tax rates. “All of our members should go back to their districts, pull together working-class voters and do town halls and just shut up and listen.”
Democrats are skeptical that Republicans will be able to make the case without Trump on the ballot, especially since Biden has focused his communications around the economy on winning support from working people. They point to polls that have long affiliated Republicans with the interests of the wealthy and big companies and the party’s broader refusal to raise taxes on upper-income Americans.
“A Republican pivot won’t change those perceptions after decades of their party pushing and passing tax policy in the opposite direction,” said Nick Gourevitch, a Democratic pollster at Global Strategy Group who has been advising Democrats on midterm messaging.
There has been some movement on other issues in corners of the party. Two Trump allies, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), backed his call for larger stimulus checks for Americans and have separately backed plans to raise the minimum wage. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has more recently urged Republicans to look favorably on unionization efforts at Amazon.
But the bulk of the Republican pitch so far has been on cultural issues, which the party has attempted to reframe as a matter of class oppression, feeding into the sense of grievance so successfully mined by Trump.
“Right now, what are the dominant concerns among conservative voters?” Banks said. “A lot of it is free speech or political correctness, the wokeness of the moment.”
In a presentation to donors last month, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel focused on “fighting Big Tech” and “election integrity,” according to a person present who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private exchange. There was no talk of government spending or debt concerns. Much of a recent National Republican Senatorial Committee poll also focused on Big Tech and other cultural issues.
When donors gathered at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club earlier this year for a retreat, they cheered most heavily when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) vowed to take on Big Tech, media and even corporations, people present at the gathering said. Trump said little in his remarks about traditional GOP concerns-- only briefly mentioning immigration and trade.
“There was this playbook written in 1980 that applied conservative principles to the problems of 198o, and it is now a very dog-eared playbook that conservatives have been flipping through ever since,” said Oren Cass, executive director of American Compass, which advocates for revisions to GOP policy. “Trump himself I liken to an earthquake. He knocked things down and showed what was weak.”