Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Sarah Longwell of the anti-Trump group Republicans for the Rule of Law is writing fan fiction about Mitt Romney, which The Atlantic has seen fit to publish:
Mitt Romney, It’s Time

The senator is best positioned to pry the Republican Party from President Trump’s hands.

... Now circumstances are evolving to the point where Romney may be able to lead his colleagues to break with the administration if—or rather when—the president is impeached by the House.

Jeff Flake has speculated that 35 or more Republican senators might vote in an impeachment trial to remove Trump from office, but only if the vote were held in secret. Whatever the real number is, the senators face a collective-action problem. Politically, their safest bet is to move as one, announcing their openness to removal as a bloc. The president can say what he wants about this or that senator. But he wouldn’t be able to claim—with any credibility beyond his most cultlike followers—that a group composed of 10 or more Republican senators is just a cabal of dishonest, no-good losers secretly working for the Democrats.
He couldn't? Sure he could. Fox-addled Republican voters -- who aren't the tiny sliver of the party Longwell thinks they are -- have no qualms about rejecting multiple Republicans as traitors and fellow travelers. They've written the entire Bush family out of the GOP pantheon, after accusing liberals of treason for expressing skepticism about George W. a decade and a half ago. To the typical Fox Republican, John McCain was a traitor. Paul Ryan is a traitor. Jeff Flake and Justin Amash are traitors. They've got a little list, and they'd be delighted to make it longer.
Part of any collective-action problem is the disincentive to go first. Senators who want to vote against Trump [in an impeachment trial] will want to wait until the last minute, letting their more courageous colleagues take the political hit by going first.... It won’t be fun, and it’s a big ask for any sitting Republican.

Romney is best suited for the job.... He’s not up for reelection until 2024, which gives him the maximum amount of leeway to make difficult votes. Even then, he represents Utah, a deep-red state where Trump’s approval rating has been underwater for much of his presidency. And that’s all assuming that Romney would even want to run for another six-year term at age 77. This all points to Romney as the perfect person to overcome the collective-action problem—he has more stature and political capital than anyone else in the Senate, but he also has the least to lose.
Maybe he'll join a small number of Republicans facing reelection in purple states, but he's not going to lead a GOP revolt, and he certainly isn't going to "pry the Republican Party from President Trump’s hands."

Republican voters might turn on Trump in the distant future if he's reelected and an economic downturn leads, far too late, to GOP Trump fatigue (at which point they'll start calling him a liberal). For now, though, if he's under attack, GOP voters will continue to regard him as a hero or a martyr, and any Republican who sides against him as the worst kind of turncoat.

The party won't be pried from Trump's hands. It will be lovingly handed off, probably to this guy:

The story:
Roughly two-dozen House Republicans on Wednesday stormed a closed-door deposition in secure House Intelligence Committee spaces to rail against the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, a political stunt ratcheting up the GOP complaints about the process that threw the deposition into doubt.

The conservative lawmakers, led by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, barged into the deposition and demanded they be allowed to see the closed-door proceedings.

A source in the room said that as the witness, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper, was sitting down to testify, the Republicans stormed through the room's three different doors. Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama was yelling at House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, but the California Democrat did not engage, the source said. Other Democrats, including Rep. Val Demings of Florida, shouted back at both Byrne and Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who were yelling about the process.

"It was closest thing I've seen around here to mass civil unrest as a member of Congress," according to a source in the room.
Gaetz is now the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination -- and for the 2020 nomination if Trump is somehow removed from office in the next few months. But Beltway insiders will continue to imagine a "mainstream" GOP restoration, possibly led by Romney, or by some other Trump skeptic. They're dreaming.

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