Analysis: Trump triggers a new GOP civil war, jeopardizing the party’s medium-term strategy


“We were all here. We saw what happened,” McConnell said of the attack on the Capitol. “It was a violent insurrection in an effort to try to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to another.”

If McConnell is playing a “long game,” as he titled his memoir, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is playing a short game — since he likely depends on Trump’s blessing to become president if the GOP wins. majority in the House in November.

The California Republican has apologized for RNC language, contained in a resolution that censured GOP Representatives Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Liz Cheney of Wyoming for joining the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“Anyone who broke in and caused damage, it was not necessary. These people, we said from the very beginning, should be in jail,” McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju while claiming that the resolution referred to committee subpoenas. to RNC officials who were in Florida when the Capitol was attacked.

But the censure resolution made no such distinction. And the committee is empowered by the Democratic-led House to investigate the events up to and including January 6, 2021.

Trump could distract the GOP from Biden’s attacks

Once again, the GOP is embroiled in internal recriminations and on an extreme course that could lead to violence and further attacks on democracy through demagoguery, demands for loyalty and obsessions of the ex-president.

The RNC’s whitewashing of the true nature of the insurgency is typical of the sectarian submission that many in the party still show Trump. He made it clear that the price of entering the 2022 campaign for Republicans is no longer just acceptance of Trump’s stolen election illusions, but a willingness to deny the truth of America’s worst attack on democracy. modern American history.

But such radicalism threatens to turn the midterm campaign into yet another session of public therapy for the ex-president, who still cannot come to terms with his 2020 election defeat. It will not be lost on McConnell that the post crisis Trump’s election campaign helped cost the party two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia’s runoff election, which would have made him the majority leader.

This time, Trump’s fury threatens to drown out planned searing attacks on the Biden presidency by Republican strategists and remind critical suburban voters why they’ve soured on the GOP during Trump’s presidency.

McConnell’s Strategy

McConnell’s clarity of language, which is rare in a party afraid to contradict Trump, is to be commended. This reflects his mastery of the conference and his confidence that he faces no internal threat, despite multiple attempts by the ex-president to incite a revolt against him in the Senate.

The Minority Leader’s words were also characteristic of McConnell’s tendency to give his senators political cover – one reason his leadership position is so secure. Senators questioned on Jan. 6 can now refer directly to their leader’s remarks without getting drawn into politically damaging quotes that could alienate them from their supporters back home.

Mitch McConnell just hit the RNC

Critics may argue that McConnell’s remarks were too little too late. The Kentucky Republican has already made his own arrangements with Trump, despite his disdain for the ex-president. His willingness to tolerate the anarchy of the Trump presidency helped secure the conservative Supreme Court majority that would last for years — and for which McConnell and Trump will be remembered for generations. He vigorously condemned Trump for his role in instigating the Capitol insurrection.

But his decision not to vote to convict the ex-president in his second impeachment trial, which could have led to his disqualification from future public office, represented an awareness of the continued stranglehold of the ex-president on the party. And McConnell has already said he would support Trump in 2024 if he was the Republican nominee. The comment was a signal, if one were needed, that an ultimate choice between breaking with Trump or securing another fate as majority leader would not be a choice at all.

Several of McConnell’s colleagues were explicit about the party’s strategic path on Tuesday, reflecting anger over the RNC’s self-inflicted injury.

Senator Thom Tillis said that by the time protesters entered the Capitol building, it was “no longer a speech. It was a riot.”

The North Carolina Republican sought to refocus the attack on the Biden administration, saying, “I think we as a party have to recognize that people are worried about the economy, they’re worried ongoing struggles with Covid, they’re looking ahead, and that’s what they want us to do.”

A split that promises to deepen

Republicans have a simple task in the fall — hammering Biden for high inflation, failing to deliver on his promise to end the pandemic and for perceived weakness overseas. History, which is almost always mean to presidents in midterm elections, could do the rest. But while McConnell sees the absurdity of Republicans losing sight of the objective, events on Tuesday showed that the GOP’s march toward extremism will never slow as long as Trump dominates.

McCarthy’s goal isn’t necessarily different — his position is driven by a desire for power — but he sees a different way for the House GOP (and himself) to get there. While the California Republican briefly condemned Trump for last year’s insurrection, he quickly changed course, placing his bet on the ex-president’s ever-adored base to deliver the GOP to the House in November. Trump could weaponize this majority for his anti-democratic purposes and as a platform for a 2024 campaign.

But having made his choice, McCarthy’s hands are tied. Any deviation from the course would enrage Trump, and he has already been warned by the ex-president’s cronies that his hopes of being elected president of his conference hinge on complete loyalty. Given that millions of Republican voters believe Trump’s lie that he won the last election, McCarthy may be making a solid political play, albeit laced with cowardice as he whitewashes an attack on his own workplace that endangered his colleagues and then-Vice President Mike Pence. .

Trump usually wins Republican vs. Republican fights

The political misconduct of the RNC in delivering a one-day story to the media that mitigates the political problems of the Biden administration baffles many mainstream Republican strategists.

“This is a huge mistake,” Scott Jennings, former special assistant to President George W. Bush, told CNN’s Newsroom on Tuesday.

“That’s a direct error. As a political question, it’s a huge distraction from what would be the right political strategy for the Republican Party right now – talking about the future, talking about the state of the country,” Jennings said.

Document shredding, Trump style

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, a Trump loyalist, can concede that the attempt to pay tribute to the former president has backfired as she has misrepresented what the resolution says since it was passed on Saturday.

In an op-ed on on Tuesday, she falsely accused “corporate media” of inaccurately reporting on the resolution. And she accused the House Select Committee investigating the riot, which resulted in the deaths of four people and in which police officers were beaten by Trump supporters, of “potentially ruining the lives of ‘innocent’. She also accused Kinzinger and Cheney of “belittling the events of January 6 by participating in Nancy Pelosi’s partisan committee.” (House Republicans initially agreed on the need for an independent, bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate the insurgency. But after Trump complained loudly, McCarthy helped derail the plan.)

Faced with the unusual sight of Republican senators openly contradicting the RNC’s censorship language, one might be tempted to wonder if the first cracks are appearing in the ex-president’s grip on his party. McConnell’s criticism came less than a week after Pence called Trump’s “un-American” claims that he could have prevented the certification of Biden’s election victory.

One day, Trump’s grip on the GOP may wear off. But every clash since 2015 – between his increasingly extreme and autocratic movement and the party establishment – has resulted in victory for the former president. The lesson of the past seven years is that when it comes to choosing between placating its leader or losing power, most of the GOP always aligns.

And despite his harsh criticism of the RNC on Tuesday, no one expects McConnell to follow a path similar to that of Cheney and Kinzinger, who sacrificed their future in the party — and power — in order to challenge Trump.


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