Sunday, January 24, 2021


If you thought it was possible that the Republican Party might come to its senses after this election and its aftermath, you can diabuse yourself of that notion:
[Arizona Republican] party members ... passed three resolutions censuring high-profile Republicans: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain. It was another sign of the party's move to the right.

The party censured Ducey over his decision to impose emergency rules during the pandemic that the GOP said "restrict personal liberties and force compliance to unconstitutional edicts."

McCain, who endorsed President Joe Biden, "has supported globalist policies and candidates" and "condemned President Trump for his criticism of her husband and erroneously placed behaviors over actual presidential results."

Flake has "condemned the Republican Party, rejected populism, and rejected the interests of the American people over globalist interests." The party suggested Flake join the Democrats.
Ducey, apparently unfazed, was asked by The New York Times about running for Senate in 2022 against Mark Kelly, whose 2020 victory was in a special election, and who'll therefore have to run again. Ducey issued a classic non-denial denial.
You met with Senator Mitch McConnell while you were in Washington. Are you open to running for the Senate in 2022, when you will be termed out of the governor’s office?

I’m not running for the United States Senate. I got to know Leader McConnell through the open seat with the passing of John McCain. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about the Covid-19 relief package.

Are you ruling out running for Senate?

I’m not running for the United States Senate. It’s a no. I’m 100 percent focused on being the governor of the state of Arizona. I’ve accepted the role as the chairman of the {Republican Governors Association]. So I’ve got a full-time job and then I’ve got a full-time job beyond that. And that’s what my focus is.
Use of the present tense in response to a question like this is a time-honored way of saying you're not running now, but you're leaving open the possibility of announcing a run later.

And why not? Consider what Cindy McCain said about her censure:
McCain in a tweet alluded to her late husband Sen. John McCain's own battles with the party.

"It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well ... and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP. I'll wear this as a badge of honor," she said.
That's right -- the same state party censured John McCain in 2014:
Arizona Sen. John McCain has gone soft when it comes to conservative principles. That's according to his state's Republican Party, who sent the former presidential candidate a message on Saturday by voting to censure him for his 'liberal' voting record.

... the resolution was approved on a voice vote during a meeting of state committee members in Tempe. It said McCain "has campaigned as a conservative but has lent his support to issues 'associated with liberal Democrats,' such as immigration reform and to funding the law sometimes known as Obamacare."

The five-term senator's bleeding-heart tendencies are "disastrous and harmful" to the state and the nation, the resolution said.
So what happened to John McCain after that? Two years laters, he ran for reelection -- as a Republican. He won the Republican primary 51%-40%, then won the general election by beating Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick 54%-41%. So these censures might not mean much.

McCain's main primary opponent in 2016 was Kelli Ward, who's now the Trump-loving and Trump-endorsed chair of the Arizona GOP. (She was narrowly reelected to that post last night.)

I'm guessing that Ward or someone like her will be the party's candidate against Kelly two years from now -- and I imagine many people who eagerly voted for McCain and Ducey will vote for Ward, or whichever Trumpist/QAnoner gets the nomination. But who knows? In the next two years, Ducey might tack rightward on a few issues and position himself as the guy who can take on the Evil Socialist Biden-Soros-AOC Administration, and he could be the nominee. And either way, it could be a GOP wave election, just like the wave elections Bill Clinton and Barack Obama experienced after they'd been in office two years.

Because that's how it tends to go in the GOP: The party is pulled further and further rightward, with most Establishment figures adapting so as not to be destroyed -- McCain did that, particularly in his previous race in 2010, when he also faced a far-right primary challenger -- but the percentage of the electorate that supports the party never really changes.

Maybe this time it will be different. I'm not counting on that.

And no, I don't expect a Trumpist "Patriot Party" to create a serious GOP crack-up. Trump is issuing threats now in order to minimize the number of Republicans who'll vote to convict him in his upcoming Senate trial. He'll get his way -- no more that two or three Republicans will vote to convict, and it could just be Mitt Romney, or not even Romney.

Trump will probably back primary challengers to the Republicans on his hit list, but if he were serious about starting a third party, he wouldn't be talking about primary challenges. He'd be threatening to sink his enemies in general elections -- third-party candidates don't run in primaries.

It's likely that Trumpists will defeat a few of his enemies -- but then they'll be the new Republicans, just like the Tea Party candidates in 2010 and beyond. Eventually, you won't even remember who was regarded as an insurgent and who was an establishmentarian.

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