Republicans Are Torn Between Trump And Truth

According to Machiavelli, it is better for a prince to be feared than to be loved. His reasoning is that people “love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince.” This explains the behaviour of elected federal Republicans.

During the long interlude between the election on November 3rd and the inauguration on January 20th, then President Trump incessantly claimed that Biden had won through fraud.

Dozens of court actions were launched, some reaching all the way to the Supreme Court, where three of its judges had been appointed by Trump. None of the legal actions were successful in changing the result in any state because no credible evidence backing their claims was provided.

Trump pressured Republican officials in some of those states to interfere with the result and harshly criticized them when they refused.

During this period, many Republican senators and House representatives acted as echo chambers for Trump’s baseless claims. In private, they acknowledged that there was no proof but felt that they would feel the wrath from Trump supporters who elected them if they did not support him.

A favourite threat of his is to encourage Republicans to contest nominations in states with disobedient representatives or senators.

Trump called for supporters to come to Washington on January 6th. Both the invite (“‘Be There. Will Be Wild!’”) and his speech that day served to incite the insurrection that followed. As the rioters stormed into the Capitol, the House members and senators were obliged to hide for fear of their lives.

Despite that, 139 House members and ten senators voted against certifying the election of President Biden. They did so notwithstanding strong evidence that Trump was a political liability.

On November 3rd, the Republicans down-ballot received many more votes than Trump. They increased their numbers in the House and held Senate seats where polls predicted Democratic wins.

The Republicans were favoured to win the Georgia runoff elections on January 5th. Trump had fiercely criticized the state’s Republican governor and the officials who had managed the November count. At a January appearance nominally in support of the Republican candidates, he used the time to express grievances, again asserting that the results of the November vote were fraudulent.

His interventions damaged Republican prospects and they narrowly lost both Senate seats, yielding control to the Democrats.

Trump departed for Florida on inauguration day, having been impeached by the House and stripped of his Twitter and Facebook podiums.

One might expect that the events of the preceding weeks would provide a convenient offramp for Republicans who felt hitherto beholden to him. That did not happen.

Just ten House Republicans supported the vote to impeach Trump for inciting the riot. Colleagues criticized those ten and efforts were made to demote third-ranked Liz Cheney of Wyoming.

Republicans in Arizona censured former Senator Jeff Flake, Governor Doug Ducey, and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, who have broken with Trump.

Lest people think that Trump is a spent force, or that he values the interest of his party over himself, he made headlines by threatening to create a new “MAGA Party.”

According to the Washington Post “Multiple people in Trump’s orbit…say Trump has told people that the third-party threat gives him leverage to prevent Republican senators from voting to convict him during the Senate impeachment trial.”

There are a few Republican senators—for example, Mitt Romney in Utah, Susan Collins in Maine, Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, and Ben Sasse in Nebraska—that are strong enough to be able to act on their own judgement.

Most Senate Republicans ducked the issue this week by unsuccessfully voting that impeachment would be unconstitutional rather than dealing with the question of Trump’s culpability. But their day of reckoning is coming.

For those who parroted Trump’s false claims of election fraud and are up for re-election in 2022, there is an unwanted choice.

Continuing to pretend that there is some merit in those assertions and hope that rock solid support from Trump’s base will get them elected. This could work in reliably Republican states like Kansas or Oklahoma.

In swing states such as New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, crossing Trump will likely result in a challenge for the party’s nomination egged on by Trump and supported by his base.

Aligning with Trump in those states will alienate the crucial swing voters who chose Joe Biden in November.

Trump has burned too many bridges with voters to be a viable candidate himself in 2024. The racist Proud Boys who were prominent in the January 6th riot have figured that out. Having nothing to fear they have ditched Trump, saying he is a loser and extraordinarily weak. Of course, they are not seeking re-election. Machiavelli would understand.


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