I feel sorry for my Republican friends, who are trying to figure out how to save their party from open warfare between moderates, represented by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the far right, represented by former President Donald Trump. It will be a fight to the finish ahead of 2022 midterm elections.
After McConnell voted to acquit Trump on the impeachment charge that the former president incited a violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, he waited a few days before taking to the Senate floor to declare that Trump was "practically and morally responsible for provoking" the Jan. 6 riot that killed five people. "Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty," McConnell added. "His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehoods he shouted into the world's largest megaphone."
That was like waving a red flag in front of a bull, and Trump roared back with a statement asserting that "Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republicans are going to stay with him, they won't win again. The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political 'leaders' like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm." The battle lines were drawn.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, knowledgeable GOP strategist Karl Rove opined that "Trump's smears don't diminish McConnell, one of only a handful of leaders who have demonstrated a mastery of the upper chamber." Rove reminded his fellow Republicans that McConnell's "achievements are legion, including skillfully maneuvering Trump's legislative accomplishments and judicial appointments (including three Supreme Court justices) through the Senate."
The Journal piled-on with an editorial arguing that "Trump lost to himself," and has only himself to blame for losing to President Joe Biden last November, although the twice-impeached former president continues to claim that he won "by a landslide." But only the delusional My Pillow Guy and some far right true believers think Trump won. The Journal went on to quote Trump's own pollster, Tony Fabrizio, who analyzed the election results and concluded that "Trump lost even though the electorate was more Republican in 2020 than it was in 2016," as evidenced by GOP gains in the House and in state legislatures across the nation (but not in Nevada).
Fabrizio said Trump lost largely due to a "massive swing" among independents and some erosion among moderate Republicans, including "white, college-educated voters across the board," a group that includes your favorite Appeal columnist. As my loyal readers know, I couldn't bring myself to vote for either Trump or Biden last November, so I opted for good old "None of the above," who's always on the Nevada ballot.
Many independent voters and moderate Republicans didn't really vote for Biden; rather, they voted against an angry, belligerent and self-centered former president. That gave Biden a razor-thin majority in both houses of Congress.
Biden won by 7 million votes, but I believe that many more than 7 million additional voters would opt for a strong Republican candidate who isn't Trump in 2024. Meanwhile, Trump is already lashing out at Republicans who didn't come to his defense in the Senate impeachment trial, focusing on McConnell and the seven Republicans who voted to convict him.
Trump said he intends to remain a force in the Republican Party, backing candidates who support his "Make America Great Again" agenda. For his part, McConnell vows to seek Republican unity by opposing Biden's "far left agenda." Count me in!
Here in Nevada, pro-Trump Republicans control the state party, but where are the moderates? Don't be intimidated; speak up!
Guy W. Farmer, a retired diplomat, is the Appeal's senior political columnist.