Wednesday, January 06, 2021


A couple of days ago, I criticized the notion that a schism was developing in the Republican Party. Sure, some Republicans were planning to defend Donald Trump to the bitter end and others were acknowledging Joe Biden's victory. But these Republicans largely agree on issues: tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, a hard line on abortion, gun absolutism, denouncing Democrats as evil elitist socialist Black Lives Matter Antifa Soros puppets.

Now, however, Raphael Warnock has won one Georgia Senate runoff, while Jon Ossoff is on the verge of winning the other one, and I see signs of a genuine GOP schism: not between pro-Trumpers and anti-Trumpers, but between the party establishment and Trump.
“Trump is the cause of this, lock, stock and barrel,” said one Republican strategist. “But when you’re relying on someone to win you a Senate race that also lost statewide eight weeks prior, you’re not in a position of strength.”

... When asked why Republicans didn’t prevail on Tuesday, a senior Senate Republican aide simply said: “Donald J. Trump.”

The frustration stems from the days after the Nov. 3 election. While Republicans tried to reset in Georgia and prepare for the two runoff races, the president set off a civil war within his own party as he launched a divisive campaign to overturn the 2020 election.

For the next few weeks, the president’s focus remained on trying to overturn his personal results in Georgia and other states....

Even at a Monday rally designed to drum up voting for Loeffler and Perdue, the president obsessed over his own political grievances, swiping at lawmakers from his own party....

[Republicans] ticked off a variety of reasons why Trump was to blame, even offering conflicting theories. For instance, while some Republicans wished Trump had been more involved in the races, others argued he should have actually excised himself from the situation.

“He is the Dems’ best base animator,” said one GOP strategist involved in the Georgia races. “Look at how high turnout was on their side compared to historical trends. Look at how much their candidates raised. He steps back after Election Day and denies them that oxygen. He didn’t.”
Trump is also, obviously, a Republican base animator -- I'm sure there were a lot of voters in Georgia who looked at the runoffs the way a voter interviewed by The Washington Post did:
When asked Tuesday whom she was casting a ballot for in the Georgia runoff, Julie Milum replied, "Trump."

“Well, you know what I mean,” said Milum, 50, who voted at a polling station in Marietta, a fast-diversifying suburb northwest of Atlanta.
I think Trump was good and bad for the GOP, but in Georgia, on balance, he was bad. Republicans had good turnout in the runoffs. Democrats just had better turnout. I don't believe many potential Republican voters stayed home because they thought the whole thing was rigged -- but the few who did might have been the difference between wins and losses for the GOP. If Trump wanted to claim election rigging, he could have calibrated his message better, saying consistently, "Those evil Dems are going to try to steal it, so we need even better turnout to prevent that." But Trump isn't a calibrator. He just does what he pleases, and he thinks his instincts are impeccable.

But if the conventional wisdom in GOP circles is now that Trump is a liability to the party, then the party will be at war with its Trump-adoring base. If Trump keeps fighting for the love of these voters, and if he ramains their God Emperor, how can the rest of the party jettison him?

This won't inevitably lead to a crack-up, with the GOP Establishment desperate to move on and the Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Madison Cawthorns (and Josh Hawleys) clinging to Trump. Trump might simply give up on politics, abandon his pursuit of the 2024 nomination, and just play a lot of golf or do an Apprentice reboot or get mired in a series of legal cases. But the possibility exists that he'll stick around, and his cult will stick with him, and that they'll still be looking for vengeance in the 2022 election cycle and redemption in 2024, as the party establishment tries to move on. It's a lot to hope for, but it could happen.

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