We are watching the GOP implode before our eyes. Members of the Republican party keep finding new and creative ways to cling themselves to the alt right, tips from Q, and denying essential truths like 9/11. The further they move into crazytown, the more ground they will lose in every town.
Fork in the road
The House Republicans had a moment of clarity earlier this month when it weighed the fates of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Liz Cheney.
Rep. Greene – who has said that school shootings at Parkland and Sandy Hook were staged, that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, that California wildfires were started by space lasers – received a standing ovation from a sizeable cohort of Republican colleagues in a conference meeting after all of this came to light. Let’s be clear: they applauded a colleague open engaged in conspiracism, racism, and anti-Semitism.
Rewind to former Rep. Steve King’s comments in 2019 – a bookend to a long track record of offensive remarks throughout his career – embracing white supremacy and white nationalism. Both parties, including the entirety of the GOP, condemned his words, publicly rebuked him, and stripped him of committee assignments.
But the standards have changed. Rep. Greene was able to get away with far more than what Rep. King was rebuked for just two years ago.
By contrast, Rep. Cheney was excoriated by several colleagues for her vote of conscience to impeach former Pres. Donald Trump. She was censured by the Wyoming GOP, and Rep. Matt Gaetz is campaigning against her.
I disagree with just about everything Liz Cheney believes, but she impeached the ex-President because she thought it was the right thing to do. Because her life and her colleagues’ lives were in danger because of his actions. And she was ridiculed across the right wing spectrum for it.
Cheney was able to keep her post in GOP leadership, and she likely benefited from the fact that it was a secret ballot. She might not have been so lucky if it were a public vote because her Republican colleagues feel the need to mug for Trump and his most fanatical supporters.
From grand old to crazy new party
Of course, the Greene episode is just the latest in a series of Republican efforts to cozy up to the most extreme elements of the country. We’ve seen it before when the GOP’s embraced other candidates on the fringe, when they spread coronavirus conspiracy theories, and when they falsely characterized the Black Lives Matter movement to stoke fear.
And here’s how it will play out over the next two years – and possibly beyond. Fringe Republicans will primary challenge moderate or even deeply conservative Republicans who put country over party. So Cheney and other Republicans with a conscience like Rep. Adam Kinzinger will have to cover their right flank to retain their seat in Congress.
Some of the rational Republicans will lose to crazy ones. We saw that during the Trump era. Republicans like Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Mike Coffman, Barbara Comstock, and Mia Love lost or retired after speaking out against Trump and the extremists he empowered – and that struck fear in almost all Republicans to toe the Trump line.
Some of the rational Republicans, for the good of the country, will win hopefully. But when they lose there will be another byproduct: Democrat gains.
Democrats won the House in 2018 and the White House in 2020 in part by peeling off the swing suburban vote. If the Republicans start putting up a rash of far-out candidates in the general election, the Democrats will take every swing state and purple district in which they’re competing. As the GOP lurches further to the right, the Democratic party will take up more of the middle and gain ground as a result.
We have been waiting for many years for elected Republicans in Washington to show some spine when it comes to the Trump cult. It didn’t happen when Trump said there were very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville. It didn’t happen when Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival. And it didn’t happen when Trump incited a riot that killed several people.
Perhaps the only thing that will resonate with official Republicans is losing elections. They are politicians, after all. But until they figure that out, it will be great news for the Democrats.