“If we become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are toast.”
— Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), caught on a live microphone by KNXV-TV.
“There was a time when the question of whether to disown a candidate accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl was fairly straightforward,” the New York Times reports.
“But the divisions in the Republican Party run so deep that the latest rallying cry for many on the right has become the case of Roy Moore, the Senate candidate in Alabama who faces allegations of preying on many young women, including a 14-year-old, when he was in his 30s.”
“The debate among Republicans over what to do about Mr. Moore has taken on a significance that extends far beyond Alabama’s borders. It pits ascendant forces in the party — the most conservative evangelical Christians and insurgent, anti-establishment populists — against the Republican leadership in Washington. And it is being fanned by many of the same emotions that helped stoke President Trump’s rise and election: a mistrust of government, a desire for a leader who disdains and disrupts the political status quo, and a suspicion that elected officials will stop at nothing to hold on to power.”
“Steve Louro, a Republican donor who hosted an event for Donald Trump at his Long Island home last year, abruptly quit his post as regional finance chairman for the state’s Republican Party over objections to the Republican-led tax bill advancing through Congress,” the New York Times reports.
Said Louro: “The bill that’s going to get passed is not going to take care of the American people. It’s a disgrace.”
He added: “The Republican Party took control of the government against all odds, and the bottom line is they fucked it up. It’s a disgrace. It’s going to hurt a lot of middle-class Republicans.”
Frank Rich: “The idea that the pre-Trump GOP will make a post-Trump comeback to vanquish these forces is laughable. Old-line Establishment Republicans in the Senate and the House, even very conservative ones like Flake, are engaging in self-deportation, as Mitt Romney might say, rather than face a firing squad in the primaries. The Trumpists will with time expunge the rest, including Paul Ryan (whom Bannon has dismissed as ‘a limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation,’ according to Joshua Green in The Devil’s Bargain).”
“It’s a replay of the purge of the 1960s, when the reinvented GOP shaped by Goldwater, Nixon, and the ‘southern strategy’ shoved aside the likes of Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney. Given that 89 percent of Republicans voted for Trump in November and that 80 percent of today’s GOP voters reliably give Trump favorable approval ratings no matter what he has said or done since, that means only a fifth of those Americans identifying as Republicans are (possibly) Never Trumpers.”
“The remains of Establishment Republicanism are at best a Potemkin village. It’s too little, too late for ‘the Republican renovation project’ floated in October by the former George W. Bush speechwriter and passionate Never Trumper Michael Gerson, who imagined that John Kasich, Flake, Ben Sasse, and the like would dream up ‘a compelling alternative to the Bannon appeal.’ History will show that feckless Establishment Republicans repeatedly missed their chance to take back or renovate their party by being too cowardly, too cynical, or too inept to confront Trumpism as it fanned the flames of racial backlash under Palin, the tea party, and finally Trump during the Obama years.”
Dan Balz: “In the days after the Virginia election, SurveyMonkey, the online polling firm, asked people whether they thought the Republicans should become the party of Trump or fight against becoming the party of Trump. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, almost 8 in 10 said the GOP should become the party of Trump. The rest of the electorate strongly disagrees.”
“The implications of that are clear, as Gillespie found during the Virginia race. For Republican candidates, crossing the president risks the ire of the Trump base and depressed turnout. Embracing him too fully risks energizing the opposition. Trump won’t be on the ballot until 2020. In the meantime, he has made the GOP his party, and those who share the label are left to deal with the consequences.”
Max Boot: “This episode is the sorry culmination of two trends that have disfigured the conservative movement beyond all recognition: contempt for the facts and desire to win at all costs. Republicans are increasingly reliant on ‘alternative facts’ manufactured by the likes of Fox News and Breitbart, which claim that global warming isn’t real and neither is the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee. The real scandal, they tell us, is the Steele dossier paid for by the Democrats in an attempt to uncover Trump’s Russian connections. Or is it the evidence-free claim that Obama supposedly wiretapped Trump?”
“In the final analysis, no indictment of their candidate will convince the faithful. As Trump once said, ‘I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters’ Or, more to the point, Roy Moore could molest a 14-year-old girl and not lose votes. Because for Republican partisans, their opponents are ‘the forces of evil,’ and anything is preferable to that. Even Donald Trump. Even Roy Moore. So in ostensibly fighting evil, Republicans have become complicit in it.”
“This is a party that does not deserve to survive.”
Politico: “Sweeping losses in Tuesday’s elections have exacerbated a growing rift inside the GOP over whether the party’s candidates should embrace President Trump in next year’s midterms – or make a clean break. With Trump’s approval ratings cratering in swing states across the country, some senior party strategists are imploring lawmakers to abandon the president. Others argue that shunning Trump and his populist base is simply out of the question and that anything other than a full embrace of the president will spell electoral disaster.”
“In the Virginia gubernatorial race, Republican Ed Gillespie tried to have it both ways – with disastrous consequences. Gillespie, who privately agonized about the degree to which Trump should be involved in the contest, refused to campaign with the president. But at the same time, he trumpeted Trump’s culture war issues in ads.”
Ron Brownstein: “For months, Republican strategists, and even some Democratic ones, have argued that because Trump is such a unique figure, voters unhappy with him were less likely to take it out on other candidates from his party than they’d been with previous presidents. Tuesday’s results exploded that idea. In both the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, exit polls found a clear majority of voters disapproved of Trump’s job performance—and that in both contests about 85 percent of those dissatisfied voters backed the Democrat. That result fits squarely in the range typical of House and Senate elections over the past two decades. In other words, it clearly signaled to congressional Republicans that they will be bound to Trump more than they hoped or expected in future elections.”
“The soaring wave of discontent translated into solid turnout and crushing margins for Democrats in their key voter groups, all of which have expressed intense resistance to Trump in polls.”
Matthew Yglesias: “There’s no need to pass a giant tax reform package, and there’s also no need to run around Washington with a hangdog look or vague sense of shame about it. With the federal government under GOP control, the judiciary is filling up with GOP appointees. Regulatory agencies are in the hands of people who share the party’s mostly pro-business orientation. Appropriations bills are pouring money into the military and domestic security forces. Partisan control of the government is a big deal with or without major legislation.”
“But Republicans are mostly a party of cultural grievance-mongers, not ambitious legislators. That’s why Donald Trump is their president. That’s why they don’t seem to notice or care that Paul Ryan is a total fraud. They’d be a lot happier if they just owned it.”
Hugh Hewitt: “There’s a loud, persistent group of Trump critics who apparently never learned the concept of ‘sunk costs,’ and there’s former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, who knows that there’s profit and power to be found in exploiting the anger of the Never Trumpers and the anti-Never Trumpers. But this doesn’t amount to a civil war, only a series of skirmishes on the fringes of the party and among its chattering Manhattan-Beltway class estranged from President Trump.”
“Four data points have set off this chorus on the imaginary intra-party conflict: two speeches and two retirements. That and Bannon’s dislike of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which is unfathomable except as a grudge. McConnell is easily the most effective GOP Senate leader of my adult life, and the likely confirmation this week of four more circuit court judges underscores that conclusion.”
“The flimsily constructed ‘civil war’ narrative is built out of discrete episodes that have in common only the calendar.”
David Drucker: “The current debate over Confederate symbols cuts to the central, existential question hanging over the G.O.P. The Republican Party today is an amalgam of upscale white suburbanites who are moderate on social issues but conservative on fiscal and national-security issues, and exurban and rural populist working-class whites, who are quasi-liberal on economic matters and foreign policy, but conservative on politically charged social issues.”
“But the key demographic in this coalition is ‘white.'”
“The Republicans becoming the guardians of the Confederacy is a function of the G.O.P. becoming so predominantly white, and yes, the predominant party in the South. The Republican project to take over the South was completed in 2010, when the red wave that swept Republicans into power in Congress and state capitals across the country ejected the last remnants of white Democratic authority. So by the time Trump responded to Charlottesville with vows to protect ‘our culture’ and ‘our history,’ and protect Confederate monuments from being relegated to some museum’s dusty storeroom, there were few sympathetic voters left in the Democratic Party to cheer him on. But there were plenty of Republicans.”
Former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), in a must-read Politico profile, says the Republican party is a completely adrift.
Said Boehner: “Donald Trump’s not a Republican. He’s not a Democrat. He’s a populist. He doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body. So who, I ask, is the leader of the party? There is nobody.”
First Read: “But there are two consequences of a Trump-led Republican Party that no longer has room for the Bob Corkers and Jeff Flakes. One, it means a smaller party. This isn’t a big-tent GOP that’s adding more converts (though West Virginia’s governor is a clear exception); rather, it’s shunning the heretics.”
“Two, as we wrote earlier this week, it could hurt Trump and the GOP with the middle of the electorate, which still matters in American politics. The president’s job-approval rating among independents was already in the 30s and 40s. Do the criticisms that Trump took from his own party members like Corker and Flake make those numbers worse? We’ll find out.”
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