On Fox News Sunday this morning, Lindsey Graham acknowledged Trump is "mad at some folks." Chris Wallace asked him if that included Mitch McConnell. Graham didn't want to answer so he said that he-- Granam-- thinks "McConnell’s speech got a load off his chest, but unfortunately put a load on the back of Republicans. That speech you will see in 2022 campaigns, I would imagine if you’re a Republican running in Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire where we have a chance to take back the Senate, they may be playing Sen. McConnell’s speech and asking you about it if you’re a candidate... I think [McConnell’s] speech was an outlier regarding how Republicans feel about all this."
A few days ago we looked at two competing narratives-- Trump forming a MAGA Party ("Patriot Party") to compete with the GOP and old guard conservatives forming a third party to compete with what already is a MAGA Party controlled by Trump. In all likelihood, conservatives will all stay under one roof, united by the guiding principle of contemporary conservative organizing: the status quo ante (plus tax cuts for the rich). The Democratic Party establishment may a vehicle to prevent structural reform but it is the Republican Party that seeks to drag society back to the "good" old days. There are no Republicans who want to give up on that, as we just witnessed over the past 4 years and 2 months.
McConnell's anti-Trump speech yesterday-- openly hoping that Trump winds up in prison-- was a call to conservatives to hang in there and not cede their party to the unwashed mob Trump cultivated.
Do Miles Taylor and Evan McMullin have what it takes to get establishment Republicans to abandon the GOP to the Trumpists and start a new center-right party that isn't part of a cult of personality? No one I spoke to thinks so. Not even the Republicans who supported impeaching and convicting Trump think it's a viable idea. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), as anti-Trump as an elected Republican is going to be, told the sounding board zoom meeting that Taylor organized that he is putting his energy into fighting to kick the Trumpists out of the GOP and win the party back. His new PAC is working to recruit and support primary opponents for members of Gang-Greene.
McMullin said that the reluctance of Republicans to convict Trump "is just the latest indication that the Republican Party is rotten to the core." He's wedded to the third party idea: "There just isn’t a choice. People will say if you do this, you’ll divide the Republican Party and the Republican Party will suffer politically. But the Republican Party doesn’t represent us now."
A more likely outcome of an anti-Trump movement would be for centrist Republicans to try to purge Trumpism from within its own ranks, said David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida who recently quit the party in protest of Trump and declared himself an independent.
A party of center-right conservatives could never create a broad enough coalition to win national elections, Jolly said. And Trump has effectively undercut his more moderate opponents among Republican voters, he said, by ridiculing them as “Never Trumpers” and “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only).
“It’s just impossible to escape the ‘never Trump’ label,” he said.
Others argue it would be much harder to wrest power over the Republican Party from Trump.
“Let’s not kid ourselves; we are not going to change this party,” said Jim Glassman, a former undersecretary of state under George W. Bush.
Glassman gave a five-minute presentation on the Feb. 5 call advocating for a new party. Any effort to reclaim the party would be “a soul-deadening slog,” he told participants.
He told Reuters on Thursday that he sees the Republican Party as now thoroughly in thrall to Trump-- and beyond repair.
“I thought, if Trump lost by 7 million votes, there may have been a chance to do that,” he said in an interview. “But events since the election have made clear that’s not going to happen.”
Asked on Wednesday about the discussions for a third party, Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, said: “These losers left the Republican Party when they voted for Joe Biden.”
Glassman believes there are enough Republican donors who are disgusted with Trump and willing to finance a new party. He believes a new conservative party could also attract maybe one fifth of Republican voters who disapprove of Trump, along with some independents and Democrats. Further, he said, running third-party candidates in House and Senate races would force the Trumpist candidates to tack to the center in general elections and temper the shrill partisanship of those races.
Many people at the Feb. 5 virtual gathering agreed with Glassman. In a poll of participants, about 40% of those in attendance supported creating an entirely new party, according to one source with direct knowledge of the discussions. About 20% favored creating a faction within the party, and an equal number supported creating a faction outside the party, though it remained unclear exactly how such an independent faction would operate.
While they disagreed on strategy, participants in the meeting said, attendees united on the need to organize and advocate for a return to “principled conservatism” that prizes the rule of law and adherence to the Constitution, ideals they believe Trump has violated.
Among the group at the Feb. 5 meeting was Elizabeth Neumann, former deputy chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security under Trump. She’s enraged at Republican lawmakers’ continued support for Trump in the wake of his stolen-election claims, which she had repeatedly warned - before the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots-- could lead to violence. Now she wants to politically target the lawmakers who voted, in the hours after the deadly insurrection, to overturn the presidential election result-- and she’s open to any strategy that might work.
“I hear arguments that we should break off and form a new party, or we should stay inside the party. There will come a time when this crystallizes,” Neumann told Reuters on Thursday. “At the moment, I’m more focused on the individual people and holding them accountable.”
...Rand Paul, asked about the prospects for a new party, told Reuters: “That’d be a good way to allow the Democrats to always win.
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn laughed when asked by Reuters about a possible third party.
“More power to ‘em,” he said.
Cornyn, however, predicted shared opposition to President Biden’s agenda will hold Republicans together. He said he hopes life in the Republican Party will return to something more normal in Trump’s absence.
“It’s made us all a little crazy,” Cornyn said.