Monday, October 23, 2023


Who's the leader of the Republican Party? According to Lisa Lerer and Michael Bender of The New York Times, there doesn't seem to be one.
In the House, Republicans are casting about for a new leader, mired in an internecine battle marked by screaming, cursing and a fresh flood of candidates. In the Senate, their party is led by Senator Mitch McConnell, who spent weeks arguing that he remained physically and mentally fit enough for the position after freezing midsentence in two public appearances. And on the 2024 campaign trail, the dominant front-runner, Donald J. Trump, faces 91 felony charges across four cases, creating a drumbeat of legal news that often overwhelms any of his party’s political messages.

As national Democrats largely stand behind President Biden and his agenda — more united than in years — Republicans are divided, directionless and effectively leaderless.
The Republican Party is "effectively leaderless"? Seriously?

Sorry -- you can't say that the Republican Party doesn't have a leader just because you don't like the leader. But that's what Lerer and Bender are doing here. Trump is the party's leader, whether they like it or not.

And is the party really "divided" and "directionless"? As I wrote recently on social media:

Republicans may not agree on much, but they agree on one thing: the Republican nominee should be elected president, even if he's up on 91 felony counts -- hell, even if he's convicted on many of those counts.

(Actually, Republicans do agree on much: Joe Biden is evil. Nancy Pelosi is evil. The Squad is evil. Chuck Schumer is evil. Trans athletes are evil. Critical race theory is evil. Bud Light is evil. Gun control is evil. Abortion is evil. Liberal celebrities are evil. Left-wingers at elite universities are evil. Should I go on? This list continues for several pages.)

Lerer and Bender write:
For years, Mr. Trump has domineered Republican politics, with a reach that could end careers, create new political stars and upend the party’s long-held ideology on issues like trade, China and federal spending.
Funny, that sounds like a leader to me, if not a very good one. But Lerer and Bender say that's not really the case:
He remains the party’s nominal leader, capturing a majority of G.O.P. voters in national polling and holding a double-digit lead in early voting states.

And yet his commanding position has turned Republicans into a party of one, demanding absolute loyalty to Mr. Trump and his personal feuds and pet causes, such as his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. The result is an endless loop of chaos that even some Republicans say once again threatens to define the party’s brand heading into an election in which Republicans — after struggling to meet the basic responsibilities of governing the House of Representatives — will ask voters to also put them in charge of the Senate and the White House.
I lived through the 2013 government shutdown, which had no impact on the results of the 2014 midterms, in which Republicans cleaned the Democrats' clock. So I don't accept this narrative. But even if you accept it, it's clear that chaos and dysfunction are just fine with Republican voters. They think government is evil (that should have been on the list above), so who cares if it ceases to function (at least as long as the Social Security checks keep going out)? Better that than compromise with evil Democrats and RINOs.

The fact that Trump is a chaos agent means he is the leader of a party that would rather burn everything down than work across the aisle. But Lerer and Bender don't see that.

On the Times op-ed page, Alexander Narazyan also struggles to accept Trump's leadership of the Republican Party. Today he looks at the case of Chris Christie, who said that the way to defeat Trump was to insult him until Trump-loving GOP voters were magically deprogrammed. This has been a spectacular failure, but Nazaryan insists that the plan was brilliant:
It’s a bold premise, but more sound than it might seem. Almost any pollster will tell you that Mr. Trump’s support is soft once you look beyond the MAGA base. A CNN poll conducted in late August found that 44 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning independents seriously worried that Mr. Trump’s legal issues could impair his ability to win the general election. Mr. Christie is the only candidate speaking directly, specifically, to this fear. A separate poll found that almost a third of Republican voters who intend to support Mr. Trump may still change their mind based on what happens in the months leading up to the first votes being cast.
But they won't. After nearly a year of campaigning -- and indictments -- Trump's lead over the rest of the GOP field has only increased.

Nazaryan believes that Trump is beatable in the primaries and Christie's methods are sound -- he's just not the right person to execute the hit on Trump. Why, look at all of Christie's flawed behavior throughout his career! Nazaryan seriously implies that issues like these are front of mind for GOP voters as they listen to Christie:
His selection for the post of U.S. attorney for New Jersey in 2001 by the George W. Bush administration was mystifying. He had never tried a federal case or overseen a major criminal prosecution; his sole evident qualification was having helped to raise $350,000 for the Bush campaign.
Yes, I'm sure that voters who are about to cast their third straight presidential ballot for Donald Trump are deeply concerned about Christie's thin résumé in 2001.
And while he prosecuted members of both parties, it became clear that he had a particular knack for targeting prominent Democrats — particularly when it served his own political ambitions.
Nazaryan genuinely believes it's a red flag for GOP voters that Christie targeted Democrats.
Near the end of the second Bush term, Mr. Christie seemed to have concluded that he was exempt from the ethical standards he once held others to. He lavishly overspent on hotel rooms, handed out dubious legal oversight contracts (as much as $52 million to a former U.S. attorney general, John Ashcroft) and made questionable loans ($46,000 to Michele Brown, a subordinate who doubled as a political adviser). He hired a friend’s son “over objections,” reported The Star-Ledger, “from nearly every assistant U.S. attorney who interviewed him.”
Apart from a handful of political professionals, is there a single Iowa voter who knows any of this? I'm sure most New Jersey residents don't know or have forgotten. Christie easily won two elections in New Jersey despite all this.

Nazaryan goes on to cite Bridgegate and Christie's (non-literal) embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy. I'm sure these are key reasons Christie is struggling with GOP voters. But does Liz Cheney have any of this baggage? Yet she went from a position in the House Republican leadership to pariah status as soon as she started talking the way Christie is talking. She won her primary in 2020 by 47 points, then lost the 2022 primary by 37 points.

Alex, please understand: It's not the messenger, it's the message. Republicans don't want to hear it. Trump is their leader. I think you (and Lerer and Bender) question this obvious fact because you can't bear to accept the truth about the GOP.

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