Sunday, January 24, 2021

Trumpty is out to rupture the Republican party

Grumpty Trumpty sat on a wall
Grumpty Trumpty had a great fall
All Kelli Ward’s censures and all the MAGA’s arms
Couldn’t put the GOP together again …

Roving Editor-at-Large Sherry calls our attention to Trump’s effort to rupture the Republican Party.

Here goes …

The Washington Post reports that Trump jumps into a divisive battle over the Republican Party — with a threat to start a ‘MAGA Party’.

Former president Donald Trump threw himself back into politics this weekend by publicly endorsing a devoted and divisive acolyte in Arizona who has embraced his false election conspiracy theories and entertained the creation of a new “MAGA Party.”

In a recorded phone call, Trump offered his “complete and total endorsement” for another term for Arizona state party chairwoman Kelli Ward, a lightning rod who has sparred with the state’s Republican governor, been condemned by the business community and overseen a recent flight in party registrations. She narrowly won reelection, by a margin of 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent, marking Trump’s first victory in a promised battle to maintain political relevance and influence after losing the 2020 election.

In recent weeks, Trump has entertained the idea of creating a third party, called the Patriot Party, and instructed his aides to prepare election challenges to lawmakers who crossed him in the final weeks in office, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), according to people familiar with the plans.

Multiple people in Trump’s orbit, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, 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. Trump advisers also say they plan to recruit opposing primary candidates and commission polling next week in districts of targeted lawmakers. Trump has more than $70 million in campaign cash banked to fund his political efforts, these people say.

The prospect of a divisive battle threatens to widen a split in the Republican Party and has alarmed leaders in Washington, who have been pleading publicly to avoid any new rounds of internecine retribution. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel are among the leaders who have worked to protect politicians like Cheney, who supported Trump’s second impeachment and now faces an internal effort to remove her from her role as the third-highest-ranking member of the House Republican leadership.

McDaniel has also spoken out about the idea of a third-party split, while repeatedly pushing back against moves by Arizona state party leaders to censure fellow Republicans, such as Gov. Doug Ducey and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who have broken with Trump. (The Arizona party on Saturday night censured Ducey, McCain and former Arizona senator Jeff Flake, all longtime establishment Republicans.)

The central issue between the warring party elements is whether Republicans will continue to organize themselves around fealty to Trump or whether a broader coalition should be built in the coming years that can welcome both his most avid supporters and those who have condemned his behavior. The scale and shape of the big tent built by Ronald Reagan, nurtured by George W. Bush and transformed by Trump is once again up for grabs, as the party finds itself without power at the White House, the House or the Senate for the first time since 2014.

“What we have seen in President Trump is an incredible politician but one who was limited to getting 46 or 47 percent of the national vote,” said Henry Barbour, a Mississippi national committeeman who serves on the board of the Data Trust, a company that manages the party’s data infrastructure. “We can win over 50 percent if we grow the party by addition and not division.”

Good luck with that.

As it now stands, the big tent is tearing at the edges. Business groups have called for a Grand Old Party purge of more extreme leaders, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has blamed Trump and other Republicans for provoking the U.S. Capitol riot and McCarthy has said Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack by not immediately denouncing the violence once it began — although he later said he did not believe Trump provoked the riot.

Trump’s fiercest supporters in Congress, meanwhile, have continued to threaten and denounce those who criticize the former president, repeatedly raising the prospect of a more fundamental party division. Adding to the conflict, Republican voters remain overwhelmingly supportive of Trump, suggesting strength in primary races that the establishment figures fear could prompt losses in competitive state and national races. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 6 in 10 Republicans believed the party should follow Trump’s leadership going forward, rather than chart a new path.

“Here’s a warning the GOP needs to hear,” tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a newly elected member who has embraced Trump’s conspiratorial view and made supportive comments about the extremist group QAnon. “The vast majority of Republican voters, volunteers, and donors are no longer loyal to the GOP, Republican Party, and candidates just because they have an R by their name. Their loyalty now lies with Donald J Trump.”

AZ GOP is the canary in the Republican coal mine

Nowhere is the division more stark now than in Arizona, where the state Republican Party, run by Ward, has tried to lead the challenge of Biden’s victory. Before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, she filed a failed lawsuit against Vice President Mike Pence in Texas in an effort to force him to rule on the legitimacy of Arizona’s electoral votes. She has also recorded conspiracy-laden videos about election impropriety that have attracted legal threats for defamation from Dominion Voting Systems, which makes software used to count ballots in parts of Arizona.

At a state party meeting Saturday in Phoenix, hundreds of party activists gathered in church for a largely maskless gathering where some members disregarded yellow caution tape on chairs meant to enforce social distancing. Political divisions were often described in near-apocalyptic terms, and chaotic shouting dominated large parts of the proceedings, as different members of the party and people who have advocated for a new third party fought over parliamentary procedure during nominating speeches.

[Ward’s] efforts to reject the results of the presidential election, which were run in her state by Ducey and other Republicans, have created a massive backlash among moderate elements of the party and among the business community, which has historically sided with Republicans in the state.

The divide in the party was evident on Jan. 6, when Republican protests at the Arizona Capitol physically split in two when jumbotron screens showed the riot happening thousands of miles away in Washington. One group of protesters said they supported the raid, while a separate group opposed it.

"Right now on the Republican side, I don’t have a word to describe what is going on,” Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Glenn Hamer said. “Whatever the worst-case scenario is, this is worse. There will be a reaction to this. I have no doubt about it.”

For example: “In the first nine days after the riot, nearly 5,000 Arizona Republicans changed their party registration, compared with 719 Democrats, according to the secretary of state’s office. The pattern has continued since then at a reduced scale.”

Neil G. Giuliano, the president of Greater Phoenix Leadership, a group of the state’s corporate leaders, says he personally knows more than a dozen people who have left the party after the attack on the Capitol and the decision by Republican lawmakers to endorse Trump’s false claims of fraud. The group put out a statement this month condemning as “reprehensible” the behavior of Ward, Gosar and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) for “disinformation and outright lies to reverse a fair and free election.” The two members of Congress were among the most vocal in seeking to deny Biden his electoral victory.

"They all know the truth,” Giuliano said about the Republican officials who nonetheless claimed the election result was fraudulent. “I can’t remember a time when there was something as serious as this that compelled CEOs to speak so strongly about what was going on in a political party.”

Trump himself is likely to decide how vicious the coming fights will be. Since leaving office, he has played golf in Palm Beach while remaining focused on his political fortunes. In recent weeks, Trump has told advisers that he remains angry at both McConnell and McCarthy and has the popularity to drive down their support within the party. He is encouraging his most loyal Republican lawmakers and advisers to attack other Republicans for being disloyal — and is launching an effort to blanket the airwaves during the impeachment trial, according to a person familiar with his efforts.

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