If you were holding out hope that Trumpism might end with Trump (oh, my sweet summer child), please allow me to present Exhibit A: the Republican Party of Arizona.

You might think the state party would be chastened. Republicans in the state just lost a second Senate seat, leaving them without a Republican senator for the first time since 1952. (In a dubious first, the party’s nominee, Trump-tongued Martha McSally, managed to lose both seats in back-to-back elections.) The state also went for Joe Biden, backing a Democrat for only the second time in 72 years.

Next, two prominent officials in the Arizona GOP, Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, became ringleaders of a plot to overturn the election results. They have been identified as architects of last week’s protest that turned into a deadly invasion of the U.S. Capitol.

So what is the Arizona Republican Party doing to recover? Why, it’s attacking John McCain’s widow.

The party just rolled out a “censure resolution” against Cindy McCain. Childish and bizarre, it attacks the wife of Arizona’s beloved late (Republican) senator for having “a past riddled with drug abuse.” (She admitted three decades ago to a previous pain-medication addiction.)

It admonishes her for supporting “leftist causes such as gay marriage.” It scolds her for endorsing Biden, “in direct opposition to … the Constitution.” It upbraids her for objecting to Trump’s “criticism of her husband” — and then it repeats such slander, saying the late senator, a war hero and POW, committed “serious wrongdoing during his military service.”

The text then says Republicans will “officially censure her” at their “Jan. 23, 2020 Mandatory Meeting.” (I’m still writing 2020 on my censure resolutions, too.)

The state party is apparently one-upping the Maricopa County GOP, which on Saturday censured Jeff Flake (Arizona’s last elected Republican senator, who retired after denouncing Trump) but was prevented by parliamentary reasons from adding Cindy McCain to the resolution.

This follows the state party’s Jan. 1 tweet announcing that “we’re never going back to the party of [Mitt] Romney, Flake and McCain.” Thus, in one clause, did the Arizona GOP disavow both the last two Republican presidential nominees before Trump and the state’s last two elected Republican senators.

What next? A resolution denouncing Barry Goldwater as a socialist? Labeling Sandra Day O’Connor as antifa?

The self-destructive madness can be traced to the 2019 election of Kelli Ward (R-Wackadoodle) as state GOP chairwoman. Under the leadership of Ward — a two-time loser of Republican Senate primaries, one against McCain — the party embraced election conspiracy theories: It called for the state legislature to “DE-CERTIFY the false results,” and when the state’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, an erstwhile Trump ally, defended the count, Ward tweeted that Ducey should “#sthu” — shut the hell up.

Cindy McCain reacted mildly to the party’s attack, saying she’s “a proud lifelong Republican” who supports “candidates who put country over party.”

TV personality Meghan McCain was less tolerant of the latest attack on her parents. “This is THE REAL problem facing the Arizona GOP, my mom!” she tweeted. “A few days after a domestic terror attack led by maniac Trump supporters.”

There had been a strain of McCain antipathy within the Arizona party well before Trump, who served in the First Bone Spurs Division during Vietnam and attacked McCain’s heroism for years, even posthumously. Meanwhile, a younger, multiracial electorate has been gradually turning against Republicans in the state, as in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.

But ruin accelerated with the takeover of the party by pro-Trump extremists. (Ward famously suggested in 2018 that the McCain family disclosed his imminent death because the “narrative” would be “negative to me.”) Republican operatives in 2019 were so concerned about Ward’s competence — justifiably so, given the 2020 results — that they tried to circumvent the state party.

Trump is now spending his final days in office fomenting insurrection and giving medals to sports figures. But the Arizona GOP debacle, and the obsession with demonizing a revered, deceased leader, show the lasting damage Trump has done to the party. In place of McCain, the faces of the state party are now Gosar and Biggs, who along with Alabama’s Rep. Mo Brooks allegedly organized last week’s protest-turned-riot.

“I was the person who came up with the Jan. 6 idea with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Mo Brooks and then Congressman Andy Biggs,” said “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander in a pre-event video. “We four schemed up of putting max pressure on Congress while they were voting so that … we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body hearing our loud roar from outside.”

Instead, they sacked the Capitol, and five died — the latest and surest sign that the party ennobled by John McCain’s patriotism has become the refuge of scoundrels.

The U.S. is more politically polarized than ever. The Post’s Kate Woodsome asks experts what drives political sectarianism — and what we can do about it. (The Washington Post)

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