Republicans used to have simple talking points. Everyone hates big government. Let’s have ours do less. People should grow up. People should take care of themselves. And of course lower taxes on the wealthy and on corporations. Do that and the economy will take off like a rocket – they’ll use that money to create new jobs for everyone. And by the way, no industry needs any kind of regulation. No one will do stupid stuff. They’d only hurt themselves. Trust them. And trust Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Free-market unregulated competition produces the greatest good for the greatest number. So leave people alone. And trust the police, all of them, always. And no one is entitled to anything. Not in this world. Personal responsibility is everything. Blacks should stop whining. Everyone should stop whining. No one owes you anything. Shut up or find another country,
All of that was comforting. Almost everyone else thought all of that was nonsense, but it was reliable nonsense that never changed at all. No talk about community and how we’re all in this together and how Americans really do look out for each other would change their minds, and they became a fixed point of reference. That was one way of thinking, one fixed point in an unstable universe.
But they don’t want to talk about all that anymore. The 2022 midterm elections are coming up soon enough. It’s time for them to decide on what they do want to talk about. Right now, most of them want to talk about how Donald Trump was wronged and really did win the 2020 election in a landslide and it’s time to reinstate him, or if that’s not possible, to make sure he wins in 2024 so he can exact his revenge on all those who wronged him. Revenge is all that matters now. Revenge is everything. Revenge is the only thing.
What about Joe Biden? Isn’t he ruining the country? Shouldn’t all Republican run against Biden and all those smug and sneering “woke” Democrats? Why does Trump’s scorched-earth four-to-six-year revenge campaign matter so much? Is that the only thing to talk about? What good does that do the party, or anyone else?
Don’t ask that question. Don’t make him angry. Republicans are in a tight spot, The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer review the situation:
Former president Donald Trump has in the past week threatened electoral defeat for Republicans who dismiss his election falsehoods, inserted himself into the Virginia governor’s race to the delight of Democrats, and promised to root out disloyal GOP officials in legislative primaries in Arizona and Michigan.
With more than a year to go before the midterm elections, the former president is leaving no corner of the party untouched as he moves to assert his dominance, both in public and behind the scenes. His stepped-up efforts create a conundrum for many of the party’s strategists and lawmakers, who believe they could have a banner election year in 2022 if they keep the focus on President Biden and his agenda.
Yes, Biden is awful, but Trump will have none of that:
Trump has repeatedly turned the focus back onto the 2020 election. And he moved into new territory Wednesday when he released a statement threatening the GOP with ballot-box repercussions if candidates do not embrace his false claims that the White House race was rigged.
“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24,” Trump said, part of a barrage of statements on the election and the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that he sent out this week. “It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
And how does one solve this presidential election fraud thing from more than a year ago and with Joe Biden the actual president at the moment? Trump doesn’t say. He’s calling for more “audits” of the votes everywhere, which, he seems to assume, will prove he is still the president, not Joe Biden. Until then, until the whole nation and the Supreme Court agrees that he won that last election, easily, handily, and he is still the president, not Joe Biden, no Republican should vote in any election anywhere for anyone. Boycott! Agree that he won? Lift the boycott. Republicans will vote again.
It’s quite simple. It’s stupid:
The former president’s threat drew winces among GOP operatives and U.S. senators gathered for a donor retreat for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Palm Beach, Fla., this week. Many still blame Trump for the loss of two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia in runoff elections early this year, saying his false claims of fraudulent ballots kept people from coming to the polls.
“It gives everyone cold sweats over the Georgia situation and the prospect he could have some impact again,” said one top party strategist, who like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
In those Georgia runoff elections he did tell Republicans down there that the whole system was rigged and they shouldn’t even bother to vote, and many of them didn’t bother to vote, and the Republicans lost both Senate seats and lost the Senate, because of those who didn’t bother to vote, because Donald Trump told them not to bother.
And no one cared:
Already, many GOP candidates are following Trump’s lead, echoing false allegations that the election results were manipulated and raising the prospect that fraud will taint other elections.
In a private speech at the retreat Thursday, Trump cast himself as the GOP’s savior, saying he had brought the party back from the brink of disaster and helped Republicans hold seats on Capitol Hill – failing to mention that the party lost the White House and control of both the House and Senate under his presidency.
“It was a dying party, I’ll be honest. Now we have a very lively party,” he said, to a room of senators, donors and lobbyists, according to a recording of the event obtained by the Washington Post, before boasting of all the endorsements and telephone town halls he had done in the 2020 cycle.
And his now very lively party lost the White House and control of both the House and Senate the last time around, but none of this is his fault:
He then railed against Republicans who had spoken negatively about him – naming Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) at an event paid for by the NRSC – and urged the party to “stick together,” with Trump as the de facto leader.
“They cheat like hell, and they stick together,” Trump said of Democrats. “The Republican Party has to stick together.”
That’s because now it’s time for merciless revenge:
And he reiterated his claims that the 2020 vote was tainted by fraud, praising GOP-controlled states that have passed new voting restrictions since then.
“It’s a terrible thing what they did in Georgia and other states,” he said.
“You look at Texas, you look at a lot of states – they are correcting all the ways we were all abused over the last election… last two elections if you think about it,” Trump added.
And now someone will pay for all that abuse, unless revenge is rather pointless:
Republicans running in competitive general elections, such as Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, have been wary of tying themselves too closely to Trump’s claims about the 2020 election, while trying not to do anything that would spark Trump’s ire and turn off his supporters.
On Wednesday, Trump gave Youngkin a full-throated endorsement when he called in to a small rally for the GOP ticket in Virginia headlined by former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
This was embarrassing:
Youngkin did not attend or sponsor the event, which began with the crowd pledging allegiance to a flag that the emcee said had been flown at a rally for Trump on Jan. 6, when his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol.
But Youngkin’s Democratic rival, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, nonetheless pounced Thursday, calling on the Republican candidate to publicly denounce the act of pledging allegiance to “a flag that was used to bring down our country.”
“If that is the case, then we shouldn’t pledge allegiance to that flag,” Youngkin said later in response. “I have been so clear: There is no place for violence – none, none – in America today.”
Now he has angered the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and all the other Trump armed militias. Youngkin got played here, but he’s not alone:
Other Republicans worry that the debates over the 2020 election will bleed into election season next year, in a way that will hurt the GOP.
“Right now, if the party focuses on Afghanistan, inflation, the border, crime – we are going to win big,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who represents a swing district outside Omaha. “If the party wants to make it about the election is rigged, we will lose. Independent voters don’t respond well to that. If we keep the focus right, I think we’re going to win big in 2022.”
But Trump has been unrelenting, sending out a blizzard of statements attacking state and local officials in Arizona and Michigan who he claims have failed to investigate election irregularities.
“Hopefully, each one of these cowardly RINOs, whose names will be identified and forthcoming, will be primaried,” he said in one recent message about Michigan lawmakers, using an acronym for Republicans in Name Only.
There’s no escape. He will have his revenge. Perhaps that’s all he lives for now. He will reverse everything:
He has also increasingly aligned himself with those who took part in the Capitol attack, recording a video this month to wish happy birthday to Ashli Babbitt, the rioter fatally shot by police. Trump called her “a truly incredible person” and called on the Justice Department to reopen its investigation into her death.
The former president has repeatedly raised the idea of the “rigged” election with candidates seeking his endorsement, and has backed a slate of GOP contenders across the country who back his claims.
Earlier this month, Trump threw his support behind a mayoral candidate in Hialeah, Fla., who told the Miami Herald that he believes there was “widespread fraud” in 2020 but that it is “very difficult to prove.”
GOP candidates across the country have been forced to answer questions on the topic. Former vice president Mike Pence, who was threatened by a mob of Trump supporters on Jan. 6, has struggled about what to say about voter fraud since then, according to advisers and allies.
There’s no escaping him. Everything is awkward now:
Much of the party’s power structure has given Trump leeway to prosecute his false election case, without explicitly endorsing it. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the House GOP campaign arm, is running ads on Facebook that fully embrace a Trump return to the White House, a clear sign that he commands the support of small-dollar donors.
“Trump won’t run for President unless we take back the House!” some of the spots declare. “There’s NO shot we win without your help.”
So, vote! Trump says don’t vote. But vote anyway! This is getting awkward:
Another recent fundraising email from the group threatened donors who had not yet contributed, saying, “You’re a traitor. You abandoned Trump.” The message added that they would “be branded a deserter” unless they contributed to the House effort.
Some Trump advisers were livid about the email, saying the rhetoric was off-putting and could alienate supporters.
Perhaps so, but Donald Trump will have his sweet revenge, although not everyone loves that idea:
Some Trump allies have encouraged the Republican National Committee and party committees to make election fraud more of an issue in 2024, and the party has stepped up its “election integrity” efforts, hiring people in battleground states across the country. In a presentation to donors earlier this year, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said “election integrity” was one of the party’s top priorities – and that the committee would be creating a program for 2022.
At the NRSC conference in Palm Beach on Thursday, donors and lobbyists were treated to a presentation on polling that showed Republicans were in a strong spot to take back the Senate, and that Biden’s poll numbers had dropped, particularly among independents, according to people familiar with research. The agenda did not include any panels on election fraud, but instead offered donors a golf session with Jack Nicklaus and discussions about how Republicans are performing on digital fundraising, foreign policy and infrastructure.
A private golf session with Jack Nicklaus is pretty damned cool. Trump is losing ground here. He’s now Captain Ahab:
In Trump’s address, one of the final events of the retreat, the former president focused on re-litigating grievances he has retained since leaving office.
He called Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) “maniacs” and described his presidency as a fight for survival.
“It was all phony shit, okay. All phony stuff,” he said of the Democratic impeachment efforts and the investigation of his ties to Russia.
That giant white whale that ripped off his leg must die! No, wait, that’s the Melville novel. Only Democrats must die, or something else:
Unprompted, he brought up an unsubstantiated claim he had interactions with prostitutes in Moscow before he ran for president.
“I’m not into golden showers,” he told the crowd. “You know the great thing, our great first lady – ‘That one,’ she said, ‘I don’t believe that one.’”
But there’s that other thing:
After extensively praising Chinese President Xi Jinping for his intellect and touting his good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he also returned to his long-standing hatred of windmills, referencing a new plan by the Biden administration to expand the number of offshore wind turbines.
“It’s so sad when you see that they are approving these windmills – worst form of energy, the most expensive,” he said. “You talk about carbon emissions, well, they are making them. More goes into the air than if you ran something for 30 years.”
When operating properly, wind turbines do not create carbon emissions as a result of electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
And windmills do not cause cancer either. But that doesn’t mean that Donald Trump won’t have his revenge, on somebody or something.
They say revenge is sweet. But it’s only stupid. “To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee; For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee”
That’s what Ahab says to the white whale. Those are Ahab’s last words. Trump should read Melville.