Donald Trump is a loser. But he is more than just a big loser. He is a sore loser. Perhaps even a deranged loser. But being a loser does not justify inciting a mob to attack the US Capitol building in an attempt to stop the joint session of Congress to count the votes of the Electoral College that would affirm Joe Biden’s election win. Trump was already slated to go down in future history books as one of the worst presidents that the United States ever had to endure. But now his historic depiction will be that of an evil would-be dictator who tried to overthrow our democratic government.
And future psychological profiles will likely excoriate him as a narcissist who allowed his egotism to overthrow his mind and forced him into delusional madness. Hopefully he will not do anything crazy in the few remaining days of his term of office that would further dishonor the United States of America. And he still has the nuclear codes located in the “football.”
But his rash actions may have saved the Republican Party. Prior to the riotous attack on Congress (President-elect Joe Biden called it an insurrection) the Republican Party was in thrall to Donald Trump. As Donald Trump, Jr. said at the rally before his father’s incitement of the mob, “This isn’t their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party.”
Even in defeat, he was likely to remain head of the party and would have likely attempted to run as the party’s presidential candidate in 2024. His ardent base would have given him a massive (and likely overwhelming) head start on any other potential candidate. And other Republicans at all levels of government feared that base of Trumpsters, knowing that opposition to any of his proposed policies or strategies, no matter how lame-brained, would motivate Trump to marshal his following to support a different candidate personally loyal to Trump.
The Republican Party would have become the personal property of Donald Trump. It would have to abandon all of its conservative principles in order to adhere to the Trump political line. They would do it even though they would quickly realize that this is a losing strategy. It would allow the Democratic Party to continue to run solely against Trump, giving them the opportunity to advance a far-left agenda virtually unnoticed by the general public. Remember that down-ballot Republicans did better than Donald Trump in the general election. And Trump’s intervention in the Georgia Senate runoff races was counterproductive as he battled Republican state leaders who he thought weren’t loyal enough to cheat on his behalf. Donald Trump personally handed the Presidency and the Senate to the Democrats.
But after the MAGA attack on American democracy, Trump’s base supporters are toxic. Any candidate seeking support from Trump’s base would be signing their political death warrant. Republican elected leaders are disavowing support for Trump and his base. High level political appointees are resigning in droves. Trump yard signs are disappearing. Many people will claim that they were only supporting the Republican Party not just Trump. If Peter can deny knowing Jesus (3 times) then mainstream Republicans can deny voting for Trump. This is the time for principled conservative Republicans to reclaim their party.
Many Republican legislators have acted badly and unconscionably. They wanted access to the Trump base of supporters to further their political careers. Some may have wanted to be Trump’s successor, forgetting that Trump’s businesses are family businesses. They spread doubts about the election. They supported the court cases that were all found to be baseless, many by judges that had been appointed by President Trump. Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley backed the electoral college objection at the joint session even after the attack had legislators scrambling for cover. Over a hundred Republicans in the House backed the objection, including my congressman. Trump and his fanatics are a losing proposition. Any Republican who downplays Trump’s seditious actions or seeks to justify the actions of the rioters will lose their next election – by a landslide.
Some Republicans did the right thing and spoke out against the objection and the rally. Senator Ben Sasse came out early against the fight to overturn the election and, surprisingly, so did Tom Cotton. Vice President Mike Pence did the right thing even as President Trump railed at him to break the law. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stuck by their guns despite intense pressure from Trump including the hour-long telephone harangue that was leaked to the press.
Trump’s grip on the Republican Party has been loosened by his missteps over the last month. His base will shed the more reasonable and rational voters, leaving him only the most outrageous and potentially violent fanatics as his core. Most of America will be repulsed. Trump will fight as hard to regain his grip on the Republican Party as he has fought to overturn the election. It will take courage and determination to stand up against him. Someone will need to step forward.
It will not be easy for Republicans to make a comeback from the disaster of the Trump presidency, which had a mixed outcome during its first three years, a very bad fourth year and a horrible finale. A lot of Republicans did and said a lot of stupid things. But the stupidest thing that they did was to lose sight of their principles.
Without America’s Founding Principles, America is not exceptional. Republicans need to emphasize those principles of limited government, personal liberty and economic freedom that made the United States the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth. They must promote free speech, civil rights and the importance of our civic institutions. They must insist that the US rejoin the alliance with other democratic nations so that united we will have the strength to confront the rising authoritarian states.
Ex-President Trump must not be allowed back into the Republican Party. The hate that the Democrats have for him means that they will go after him tooth and nail. Out of office, a lot of his dirty laundry will be aired in public. It will get very ugly. The Republican Party must distance itself from that mess. That includes ousting all Trump supporters from the Republican National Committee. Trump will be outraged at this disloyalty and will threaten to start a third party. Let him. His base will be much diminished and comprised of the worst of Hillary’s deplorables.
Because of his mistakes, Democrats now control the presidency and both houses of Congress. The progressive left will aggressively push a far-left agenda although the mandate from the 2020 elections gave Democrats only a razor thin majority. Republicans need to work with centrist Democrats to conduct the nation’s business as they rebuild their credibility with the American people.
My advice to Republicans is:
1. Do what is necessary to get the vaccines out to people and get them vaccinated. Biden’s plan seems to be similar to Trump’s. Work with Democrats for the good of the people. Also work with moderate Democrats to target post-pandemic aid to the citizens most impacted by the shutdowns.
2. Block the most extreme leftist policies if possible but negotiate rationally on more reasonable proposals. Don’t make everything a political battle. The people don’t like obstructionists. They favor compromise.
3. Democrats and Republicans seem to have similar views of China. Work with them to have a focused response. Emphasize human rights issues, military preparedness and working with democratic allies. Taiwan will be an issue.
4. Republicans are going to lose on taxes, but they should try and minimize the damage. Corporate rates will go up, but Republicans need to point out that the Nordic countries have corporate rates in the mid-twenties. Trump and the Republicans overshot with the 21 percent rate. They should oppose changing back to global taxation which almost no other country has. If capital gains are taxed like regular income, it should be indexed to inflation.
If Republicans stick with reasonable policies and are not obstructionists, they can make a start on regaining the trust of the American voter. Main Street fears the far-left progressives as much as they disliked Trump. If the Republicans can take back the House or Senate in 2022, they will be able to stop the left from taking America too far down the wrong path. The further down that path we go, the harder it will be to get our country back.