In 2016, Never Trumpers predicted that by nominating an ignorant and egomaniacal bigot, the Republican Party would lead the country and itself to ruin.
But the political consequences for the Republican Party have not been as dire as they should have been. Until now.
It’s true that the GOP lost the House in 2018, but it actually increased its majority in the Senate. It’s true that Trump failed to secure a second term, but in the electoral college at least, it was hardly a landslide. More significantly, on Nov. 3, Republicans gained seats in the House and appeared to retain control of the Senate.
How different things look after the results of Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoffs. Democrats won both seats, and with them control of the Senate. Trump becomes the first president since Herbert Hoover to lose reelection and both houses of Congress. And the widespread revulsion over Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol is likely to increase the political cost of Trumpism for the GOP. As the Never Trumper Charlie Sykes notes, the Trumpageddon that so many of us had expected is finally here. The GOP is finally getting what it deserves. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham’s (R.-S.C.) warning from 2016 has finally been vindicated: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.......and we will deserve it.”
Republicans are blaming Trump for this colossal defeat — and understandably so. Things might have turned out differently if the president had devoted his energy these past two months to defeating Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff instead of raging against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
But really Republicans have no one but themselves to blame for allowing this autocratic buffoon to hijack their party.
They could have stood up to Trump during the past four years, as he committed one offense against our democracy after another — from spending money that Congress did not appropriate on a border wall that we do not need to using congressionally appropriated aid to attempt to blackmail Ukraine’s president into helping him politically. But Republicans chose either to ignore Trump’s transgressions or to assist them.
A large share of the GOP has aligned itself with utter lunatics such as pro-Trump lawyer L. Lin Wood, who suggests that Vice President Pence should be executed for treason, that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is “being blackmailed in a horrendous scheme involving rape & murder of children captured on videotape,” and that Jeffrey Epstein is still alive. This is tinfoil-hat stuff, yet Republicans are associated with it because so many have championed the unhinged and unsubstantiated theories of election fraud spread by Wood and fellow conspiracy mongers such as Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn, Rudolph W. Giuliani — and Trump himself. Those are the same theories that led to the horrifying attack on the Capitol. Yet, even after this riot, 139 House Republicans and eight Senate Republicans — a majority of all congressional Republicans — still voted not to certify the election results in at least one state, thereby giving the mob what it wanted.
The Georgia Senate results suggest that — surprise! — assaulting American democracy is not the way to win elections in America. Yet the GOP will find it hard to pivot toward the sane center, given how much of its base has bought into the vile lies spread by Trump and his propagandists. (A recent NPR/Ipsos poll found that two-thirds of Republicans believe that voter fraud helped Biden win.)
It is unlikely to happen under the current congressional leadership, which has been a profile in cowardice. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) voted with the authoritarian extremists by refusing to certify the electoral college outcome. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opposed efforts to challenge certification, as he explained in an eloquent speech on Wednesday, but it’s too little, too late. He spent the past four years as Trump’s wingman. McConnell and McCarthy have brought dishonor and defeat on the Republican Party. Both men need to go if there is to be any hope of redemption for the GOP.
Imagine how differently the Republican Party would look if Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — the only member of the House GOP leadership who refused to challenge the election results — were to become House minority leader and Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) — the only Republican in either chamber to vote for Trump’s impeachment — were to become Senate minority leader. If congressional Republicans care at all about the future of their party — or their country — that is a change they will need to make. Otherwise, the Republican Party will be on the fast track to the oblivion that it so richly deserves.