If you ever suffered under the delusion that Donald Trump cared one whit about the Republican Party, you haven’t been paying attention.
Remember, this is the genius who seemed surprised to learn two months into his presidency that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. As though he’d just made this startling discovery, he told a fundraising dinner for House Republicans, “Most people don’t even know [Lincoln] was a Republican. Right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that.”
He was probably the only one in the room who didn’t. Apparently he didn’t read that part of his briefing book that said the GOP has been known for over 150 years as “the party of Lincoln.”
No longer. It has become the party of Trump. More accurately, it should be called the cult of Trump. And it’s not about a new vision for America, not about inclusion or freedom for all. That was made abundantly clear when Senate Republicans unanimously voted last week against the voting rights bill that Democrats had watered down in hopes of attracting at least 10 Republican votes to permit debate.
But I guess that’s to be expected from a party that worships the vilest, racist president in a century, and is prepared to put him back in the White House despite his disgraceful exit, his role in fomenting an attempted coup, and his exhaustively documented history of lies. Even Mitch McConnell, the Senate GOP leader who is known to loathe Trump, said he’d vote for him without hesitation if he is the 2024 nominee.
There may be a silver lining in that cloud, not unlike the one that marked Millard Filmore’s political demise.
Filmore, the 13th president (1850-1853), couldn’t get the nomination of his Whig Party for a second term in 1852, so he ran in 1856 on the nativist Know Nothing Party’s ticket. His message was clear and eerily familiar: anti-immigrant, anti-elite, racial and religious discrimination, restrictions on citizenship and voting rights, and xenophobic. He finished third, carrying only one state.
Although neither a Republican nor a Democrat, he did a mitzvah for the Democrats: after that, immigrants began voting solidly Democratic.
Trump helped mobilize minority voters in 2020, and can do the same in 2024.
As with the Know Nothings, voter suppression is a dominant element of the Republican and Trump agendas. Trump may be carrying it to a new level. While his party was erecting barriers in Texas, Florida, Georgia and other Red states designed to keep Democratic voters from casting their ballots, Trump seems to be telling Republicans to stay home if his party fails to “solve the presidential election fraud of 2020.”
Perhaps sensing that people might be listening to Trump, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal accused him of threatening “electoral sabotage.”
Trump told his supporters: “Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24” unless the fraud is solved. “It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do,” he said, adding: “we have thoroughly and conclusively documented” the fraud. Like all those dead people voting. Just like when Trump alter ego Tucker Carlson told his Fox audience, “It’s not a theory. It happened, and we can prove it,” that wasn’t true either.
There were very few “dead voters.” Those proven intentional were actually perpetrated by Republicans, and several are facing criminal charges.
In pursuit of the big lie, Arizona Republicans ordered a “forensic audit” of its largest county’s returns and found that Biden actually received more votes than the original count. GOP officials are calling for more audits; at this rate, Trump could be an even bigger loser. He already lost the popular vote in two presidential elections, by increasing margins, and his party’s control of the House and Senate.
But Trump isn’t giving up easily, even if it means taking the Republican ship down with him.
In his view, the only way he could ever lose is if the other side cheated. He is seething with a desire for revenge on enemies real and imagined who’ve done him wrong. His over-inflated ego is too fragile to handle criticism, much less rejection.
Trump reminds me of the emperor of a small island surrounded by the enemy’s fleet. “I have a solution,” he declared. “Boil the sea and all their ships will sink.” When his commanders asked “How?” he told them, “I do strategy, you handle the tactics.”
In his quest for retribution, he is threatening to support primary challengers to incumbent Republicans deemed disloyal, or even support their Democratic opponents, regardless of the cost to the party.
Even Trump’s spayed lap dog, Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, has reportedly told colleagues privately that he is worried Trump’s antics could fatally damage Republican hopes of taking control of the House next year. But he dare not say so publicly.
Democrats are schizophrenic. They are scared Trump will run again and afraid that he won’t. They know he energizes his own base, but they also know he energizes theirs as well. He is the most polarizing figure in American politics today.
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows he remains very popular among Republicans, but only about 44% actually want him to run again. A Quinnipiac poll shows 58% of all voters do not want Trump to run again in 2024, although 78% of Republicans think he should.
The twice-impeached former president calls his GOP critics RINOs – Republican in Name Only – but he himself may be the genuine article. He is not a Republican and cares bupkes about the party, only about Trump. And if the party goes down to defeat, it won’t be his fault but theirs, because they failed to follow his lead.
Trump has a history of getting rich by putting his name on things he didn’t build. Maybe it’s Republicans’ time for a name change. Like the Cult of Trump. Those who don’t want to be part of the cult should consider forming a new movement. They could call it The Real Republican Party.