One of many curious things we observed last week was the seemingly emboldened clique of
know-it-all establishment Republicans emerging from their forced isolation (during the Trump years, at least) to suggest that it would be a good thing for party senators to join with the certain-to-be unanimous Democrats in their upcoming (?) impeachment trial to vote to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection. These shortsighted pontificators maintained that it would do the GOP well to legally and permanently remove the horribly divisive (to them) Trump from the possibility of running again in 2024 or beyond. Among the small but recognizable contingent of the dump-Trump movement was Kyle Smith at National Review. In a piece titled, “Rand Paul Misreads the Politics of Trump’s Senate Trial,” Smith wrote:
[I]f Senator Paul has his way, apparently, Trump will suffer no consequences whatsoever and reenter private life as the heavy favorite to be the next Republican presidential nominee. This is madness. Abraham Lincoln’s party was fine without Trump for 150 years and it will long survive him. The parties being largely ruled from the ground up, it’s not feasible to eject Trump from a GOP he seized control of in 2015 and has since disgraced, but it is possible for 17 Republican senators to convict and disqualify him from holding any future high office in the United States. This is the right thing to do and it’s also the prudent thing to do, for the sake of the party as well as the country. The GOP cannot afford to spend the next four years trying to explain away Trump’s indefensible actions. It has to move on, and there is only one way to do that.
There’s so much here to disagree with it’s almost hard to figure where to begin. To start, I should point out that the once reliably conservative publication, National Review, might as well be re-coined “Establishment Review.” The magazine’s slide started years ago but accelerated in the lead-up to the 2016 election when writers Kevin Williamson and Jonah Goldberg in particular allowed their personal Trump hatred to cloud their judgment to the extent they were no longer readable due to their bias.
The former is still with NRO after briefly having left to toil for The Atlantic, only to be unceremoniously canned by the liberal rag’s editors for expressing opinions contrary to their readership’s intolerant sensitivities after a month. Goldberg is now laboring at The Dispatch, a collection of #NeverTrumpers (National Review’s David French and The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes are there too) funded by big donors who don’t care whether anyone reads their rubbish as long as its fragrance is in compliance with the hate-Trump-and-his-voters-all-the-time attitude.
It should be noted that Williamson, Goldberg, Smith, the formerly patently reliable Andrew McCarthy and the always suspicious Rich Lowry (among others) aren’t exactly big Joe Biden fans either, but who can trust what they say when they’re so mired in establishment worship post Trump? Principled conservatives they’re not. So be it.
But aside from his background, Smith is flat-out wrong. The GOP would not be better off by Mitch McConnell opening up the gates of you-know-where to allow the contingent of RINOs to charge through to dance and trample on Trump’s proverbial political grave. Rand Paul was right -- if roughly one-third of the Republican senators powwow with “Chucky” Schumer and his merry band of liberal extremists to ban and humiliate the former president, the party is finished.
Of course there are rumors Trump plans to start his own faction -- called The Patriot Party -- but he also realizes it would be a major undertaking that might not get off the ground, would be tremendously expensive and almost certainly would lead to Democrats controlling the levers of power for at least a decade if not more. Trump was amazingly successful at bringing his style of politics to the GOP, but it’s highly doubtful even he could single-handedly swing a competitive third party.
Aside from this, there’s precedent for Republicans to stay away from antagonizing the grassroots. Rep. Liz Cheney led a group of ten party outcasts in voting to impeach Trump and now she’s reaping what she sowed in her native Wyoming. Primary challenges await any politician from a conservative state or district that publicly drinks the Kool-Aid and impeaches the most successful conservative politician in decades.
The voters Paul was talking about are the ones only marginally loyal to the Republican Party as it is. These are the “forgotten Americans” who reflexively punched ballots for Democrat all their lives and were drawn to Trump’s populist/conservative platform. They’re unlikely to continue with the GOP if it reverts to running candidates in the mold of John McCain or Mitt Romney. They voted for down ballot party runners this time when it was seen as beneficial to furthering Trump’s mission. If you banish Trump, good luck convincing anyone that the Republican Party is representative of the working man and woman again.
Trump has only been off the job for a few days and it’s far from certain what his next step will be. Any potential 2024 campaign would meet fierce opposition from many, many conservatives who loved what Trump did in the policy arena but grew wary of always needing to defend his personality excesses and talent for courting controversy.
For now, it’s best for everyone to take a step back, investigate the election irregularities (might even be aided by an impeachment trial) and not speculate on what’s going to happen in the 2024 campaign. The Kyle Smiths of the world should play the long game, not give in to the hysteria of the moment.
Envision plastering the Minority Leader’s face on a future campaign poster and covering-up the last vestiges of Trump/Pence 2020, and then watching as the people run -- in the other direction. A political army is nothing without its soldiers, and seeing the Republicans’ so-called leaders throwing-in with Democrats is about the dumbest thing anyone could ever do. Instead of being known as “The Stupid Party,” the GOP might just as well be called “The Suicidal Party”.
Maybe Mitch McConnell’s silhouette could be the new symbol.