More than anything else, the Republican Party needs a good divorce lawyer right now because it is riven with irreconcilable differences. For anyone outside the party’s big tent, it’s a little embarrassing to watch.
On the one hand, we have “traditional” Republicans who adhere to GOP orthodoxy as inscribed on the Tablets of Reagan. Limited government, personal responsibility, fiscal austerity — that sort of thing.
On the other hand, we have the perpetually aggrieved supporters of former president Donald Trump who lionize their leader like members of some Neolithic cargo cult. They don’t have much patience for crafting thoughtful public policy, but boy do they love an attention-grabbing stunt. Let’s call this group, um, “patriots.”
These “patriots” are well-represented in Congress, where 43 GOP senators voted to acquit their leader in his most-recent impeachment. Over on the House side, more than 120 Republican members voted against certifying the Electoral College results that cost Trump his job.
Remember, that House vote came shortly after a mob of “patriots” stormed the U.S. Capitol, killing one policeman and injuring more than 140 others; two officers were so shaken they later committed suicide.
It’s hard to square all that violence with the Blue Lives Matter bromide that “patriots” are so fond of spouting. Oblivious to irony, the Capitol rioters chanted “U-S-A” as one of their members bludgeoned a cop with a flagpole holding the Stars and Stripes.
Aside from economic insecurity and inexorable social change, these “patriots” struggle to coherently articulate their concerns. Brandishing guns in public appears to be important, along with being nasty to the LGBT community, non-Christians and nonwhites. Beyond that, their agenda is driven by a vaguely defined grab-bag of grievances.
There is one thing about these latter-day “patriots” that’s clear: They have a rabid affection for Donald Trump. It’s mystifying, given that he just lost the White House and control of the U.S. Senate thanks to his “all-about-me” campaigning on behalf of GOP candidates in Georgia.
Squint your eyes and you’ll see the Republican party is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump, Inc. He is the queen bee, and everyone else is a mere drone.
Anything that comes out of Trump’s mouth is automatically the GOP’s position. The faithful love him that much.
Plenty of traditional Republicans have inveighed against this unsettling development, and their insights have value.
“Politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. In case you’re wondering, Sasse is a very conservative Republican who still voted to convict Trump of incitement to insurrection. (Yes Virginia, it is possible to vote against Trump and still be a Republican.)
“I didn’t leave the Republican party, the Republican party left me,” said John Kasich, a two-term Republican governor and nine-term Congressman from Ohio.
“There is an extremist wing of the GOP that has taken the party over,” said Evan McMullin, former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference. “Certainly, former President Trump is the leader of the extremist wing … but he’s not the only one. There are plenty who have joined him in Congress or elsewhere, and there are many more who are silently going along.”
Listening to McMullin, one can picture the same Venn diagram used to illustrate support for Islamic terrorists. Imagine three concentric circles, with the innermost labeled “violent extremists.” It is contained within a larger circle comprised of people who finance extremists but don’t want to get their hands dirty.
The final circle, which holds both of the others, represents people who silently support extremism. There are a lot of people inside that last circle.
The upshot is that today’s Republicans are torn between their traditional orthodoxy, as espoused by the Prophet Ronald Reagan, and the flashy new teachings of a man who bestrides the GOP like a colossus.
William Shakespeare captured this tension in his great tragedy, “Julius Caesar.”
“Upon what meat doth this, our Caesar, feed that he is grown so great?” asks Cassius, who is pushing for a leadership change.
“Men at some time must be masters of their fate,” Cassius says, adding, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves — that we are underlings.”
After years of collectingpassport stamps, William Brock finallyran aground on the Palouse. He hadbeen a Daily News columnist since 2002.