Perilous Path Forward

Examining the political landscape today without cringing is becoming increasingly difficult. Headlines that have you wondering if The Onion has become America’s primary news source. That is not fair to The Onion, as they are not as absurd as American politics.

The Republican National Committee formally censured Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. The vote was held during the party’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City and received an overwhelming amount of support. The approved resolution condemns Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger for their participation in the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6th at the U.S. Capitol. The New York Times obtained a c opy of the resolution .

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A proposed resolution endorsing their removal from the House Republican caucus lacked sufficient support to proceed. It would have been symbolic unless House Republicans were foolish enough to attempt it.

“Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse , and they are both utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes, therefore, be it.”

-Resolution to Formally Censure Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger

To what end does this benefit the members of the Republican National Committee or Republicans in general? Where is the benefit to the caucus as a whole from censuring two genuinely interested individuals participating in the House Select Committee investigation of January 6th? The only gain is to appease one man who has the majority of the Republican Party in a vice grip.

It begs the question of whether it is worthwhile to defend one of, if not the most self-destructive individual, ever to hold political office? It is a legitimate and relevant question to ask. The potential upside is invisible. I am not naive and expect an eye-rolling response to this question from Donald Trump’s loyal supporters. What does he bring to the table that a more decent, eloquent, and strategic individual could not?

“Congratulations to the Republican National Committee (RNC) and its Chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, on their great ruling in censuring Liz Cheney and Cryin’ Adam Kinzinger, two horrible RINOs who put themselves ahead of our Country.”

-Donald Trump

There was nothing decent, eloquent, or strategic praising the Republican National Committee’s actions. A trademark of Mr. Trump is his immaturity. Pandering to an already loyal base with dumbfounding off-the-cuff remarks is a political death knell. Remember every statement uttered or issued to even your closest allies risks exposure to the media. Twitter was his poison as it enabled political suicide at the click of a mouse. Politicians should pick and choose their words closely. Yes, the art of politics is a façade, but the goal is always to appeal to the majority of the electorate to win elections, not necessarily the most politically active. Mr. Trump either has no desire to or is ignorant of the basics of expanding his base.

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Politics is not for the thinned skinned either. Another feature of Mr. Trump on display daily. In response to Mr. Trump stating he would offer pardons to January 6th defendants, Sen. Lindsey Graham called it “inappropriate” in a CBS Face the Nation appearance . Trump wasted no time attacking Mr. Graham.

“Well, Lindsey Graham’s wrong. I mean, Lindsey’s a nice guy, but he’s a RINO.”

-Donal Trump in an interview with Newsmax.

Mr. Graham, who has been a loyal ally of Mr. Trump, stood by his original statement without mentioning Mr. Trump by name. Everyone who has expressed even the slightest disagreement with Mr. Trump is immediately labeled a Republican in name only. The list is considerable and ever-growing. I would argue Mr. Trump is a Republican in name only. He does not represent what the Republican Party once stood for. The typical name-calling and drivel we come to expect from Mr. Trump are embarrassing to anyone interested in seeing the Republican Party succeed. Retaking the mantle of the big tent party is the best path forward. Disagreement among Republicans is a strength, not a weakness. Respectful dialogue with Democrats is a strength and a necessity.

“The Republican Party, both in this state and nationally, is a broad party. There is room in our tent for many views; indeed, the divergence of views is one of our strengths. Let no one, however, interpret this to mean compromise of basic philosophy or that we will be all things to all people for political expediency.”

-Governor Ronald Reagan to California Republican Assembly – April 1, 1967

Then California Gov. Ronald Reagan suggested we cannot become the party of all people for the sake of political expediency but recognized disagreement and civil discourse as a strength. Under Trump’s leadership, no criticism of himself or any aspect of his supported agenda is acceptable.

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A basic set of principles guiding a party’s direction is appropriate messaging but not devotion to anyone’s proposal or idea because one man demands it. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump’s primary messaging has become the 2020 election was stolen, and any Republican who dares dispute his lies is labeled a RINO and subject to elementary school name-calling. Does he believe he is changing hearts and minds with his incoherent and false rhetoric? Do the majority of Republicans want Mr. Trump to lead the party? Do they understand how burdensome he is to their cause? He is a petulant child and an anchor weighing down Republicans. Republicans are missing an opportunity to capitalize on Democrats’ misfortunes. Democrats have their internal battle on the party’s direction, but one advantage they have is it is not a deity to one man.

Most, unfortunately not all, Republicans do not condone the events of January 6th; however, they consider the incident unworthy of further discussion or investigation. It would be fair to suggest the majority of the opposition is based on the potential negative impact on Republican electoral prospects. Some prominent Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, now welcome the investigation despite initial opposition. While comparisons to Pearl Harbor and September 11th, as Vice President Harris has made, are hyperbole and complete nonsense. January 6th is a stain on our country’s history, and it is due time that Republicans, at the very least, respect, even if they disagree, the meaningful work being pursued by the House Select Committee.

Image Credit: “Donald Trump”  by Gage Skidmore  is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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Acceptance is a Burden

One of the most significant issues in our politics is that everyone must be branded with a label. Even a degree of individualism in party politics is persona non grata. If someone falls even remotely outside the lines of ideological design, they are condemned as not one of us. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty.

Neither political party has all the solutions, but their heads are so large they believe anyone who opposes them is not only their enemy but the enemy of the people of the United States. Forget bipartisanship among the two parties; resolving partisanship internally has become a struggle. Ideally, any party should be able to find a compromise on any legislative proposal or concept and not resort to public condemnation of those who are not on board with the party platform. Unfortunately, common decency has lost its way in government.

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Republicans have unquestionably and regrettably become the party of Former President Donald Trump. He is the overlord who must approve of every move, or there will be backlash and accusations of being a RINO. A derogatory phrase to condemn anyone who dares step out of line with the party overlords or sole overload in this case. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky understands the potential treachery Republicans face. He is not innocent, though. Like with all leaders, there is a demand to conform. With Mr. McConnell, it is more behind the scenes than Mr. Trump, who makes his opposition to members of his party crystal clear to the public. Neither is in the right. Mr. Trump does not have the party’s best interests at heart, just himself. His lack of ability to handle criticism, even constructive, is a concern.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is not running for reelection. Mr. Baker has an approval rating of over 70% in a Democrat-dominated state. Mr. Trump has endorsed Geoff Diehl, who will struggle to win a Republican primary, never mind a general election. It would be in the best interest of Republicans to start accepting internal differences. Primaries are intra-party battles, but in the end, there should not be resentment for the ultimate winner. My bet is with Mr. Trump; there will be resentment because he did not get his way.

Sen. Mitt Romney is a bonafide conservative. No one willing to accept reality could argue otherwise. Despite that, he is one of the most criticized Senators by conservatives. Listen to conservative talk shows like Mark Levin, and you would think Sen. Bernie Sanders has infiltrated the Republican Party. Please take a look at Mr. Romney’s voting record and tell me how he compares to a Democrat. Voting to convict Mr. Trump indeed increased the hostility toward him, but conservatives have been critical of Mr. Romney long before that. Voting to convict Mr. Trump, who for some reason is infallible too many Republicans, does not decrease his credentials as a conservative Republican.

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There is the argument he voted for President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, which equated to being pro-pedophile by the extreme right; he cannot be a Republican. The Supreme Court should be based on legal qualifications alone, not politics. This is a lost concept in America. The Supreme Court nomination process has become the equivalent of campaigning for political office. 

Democrats are no better. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have taken extraordinary heat simply because they do not buy into all of President Biden’s agenda. The expectation is they will abandon their genuine concerns and opposition for the good of party politics. Their votes have been taken for granted, and if they do not bow to demands by party leaders, they are the enemy. Manchin has made clear he is an old-school West Virginia Democrat and not a liberal.

Ms. Sinema once identified as a progressive and a former member of the Green Party. Her views have since moderated dramatically. She is considered one of the most moderate Senate Democrats, only second to Mr. Manchin. Is moderation her calculated attempt at representing Arizona, which was once deep red and now more of a purple state, or has her point of view genuinely evolved? Political pragmatism would not be the end of the world in our country. In 2018 Ms. Sinema ran for the Senate in Arizona as a political moderate attempting to appeal to Republicans alienated by then-President Trump and independents. She even went as far as to say she would not vote for Sen. Chuck Schumer as Democrat leader in an attempt to separate herself from liberal Democrats. Did those that voted for her and are now disappointed think she was lying? She never claimed to be the new coming of progressive politics.

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Both parties should embrace the reality that an internal and external divide is good for Democracy as a whole. Using every shortcut available to enact legislative priorities and browbeating those who oppose is counterproductive. The likes of Mr. Romney and Ms. Sinema are not problems in our politics. They are part of their respective caucuses with their own point of view that deserves respect among their peers. The conservative and progressive point of view should be respected as well.

The difficulty progressives face is their agenda cannot gain the support of the entire Democrat caucus. Therefore, moving forward with the need to implement an ideological agenda at all costs needs a reality check. Look at the situation the demands of progressives and liberals alike have created. Only now are Democrats willing to accept anything Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema will vote for on the formerly Build Back Better legislation. That attitude should have been embraced from the onset.

You could argue it is wrong for two Senators out of 50 Democrats to hold up their entire agenda, but senators are elected to represent their states, not their party. Mr. Manchin’s willingness to discuss Build Back Better in a state that voted for Mr. Trump by almost 40% should be considered a blessing. As of this writing, President Biden’s approval rating is 18% in West Virginia.

Both expressed their reservations about many aspects of Build Back Better. Ms. Sinema was more private in expressing her concerns, and Mr. Manchin made multiple media appearances expressing his concerns. Democrats, instead of listening, attempted to beat them into submission. Now Democrats find themselves close to getting nothing. Internal strife within political parties does not need to sink to this level. Mr. Manchin could be responsible for not being as forthright as he should be, whether that was to be intentionally deceptive in attempting to run out of the clock or for fear of being condemned. Mr. Manchin eventually did drive the stake through the heart of Build Back Better, and it has worked out to his benefit.

It is questionable whether he lives by it, but President Biden has a good message. We can do anything as Americans if we do it together. Biden needs to take his own advice. Mr. Trump would not even know what that means.

Image Credit:Mitt Romney ” by Gage Skidmore  is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0 .

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Complicit Uniformity

What happened to the party of individualism and freedom? Freedom of expression is no longer acceptable if it does not fall precisely into said parameters. Is former President Donald Trump now this untouchable figure who, if you dare go against, you will be subject to condemnation? Do people with differing points of view need to be relegated to some derogatory status? Is worshiping at the altar of Mr. Trump now the future of conservatism? Is he the new Ronald Reagan? If I had to guess the answer to all those questions, the evidence points to overwhelmingly yes. 

Ronald Reagan has long been a role model to not only conservatives but Republicans in general. The vast majority of the party respected him, and the country did to some degree. Of course, like any politician, Mr. Reagan had his detractors. But consider this. Mr. Reagan in 1984 won 49 of 50 states. With an electoral college count of 525-13. The likelihood is we will never see that kind of landslide victory again. Nevertheless, Mr. Reagan certainly earned the respect of a large portion of the country and earned his high regard among Republicans today. 

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Compare that to Donald Trump. If you were neutral on or uncertain about Mr. Trump before his 2016 presidential election victory, odds are you detested him after his first term. He did nothing to convince or at least earn some degree of respect from his detractors. Mr. Trump’s insecurities, erratic behaviors, and dumbfounding statements underscore why he became a one-term president and has an ever-growing number of Republican detractors. President Biden did not win on the policy details of his platform. Mr. Trump committed political suicide. 

Conservatives need to accept that a Trump-like figure, or any conservative for that matter, will not win in states like Maryland and Massachusetts. Both presently have Republican governors because they are moderates. Republican moderates who refuse to fall in line are, in a derogative sense, cast as liberals. Unfortunately, moderate has become a dirty word for both Democrats and Republicans. Purity tests are not a winning strategy in a diverse country with different beliefs and ideals. A conservative Republican will not win in deep-blue Maryland. Just like a progressive Democrat will not succeed in deep-red West Virginia.

In Wyoming, challenging Rep. Liz Cheney in a Republican primary is feasible. Wyoming is a very red state where Trump performed exceptionally well in 2020. So the likelihood of a Trump-endorsed candidate winning a Republican primary against Ms. Cheney is in the likely realm of possibilities. Wyoming is not America, though. One size never fits all. It is no coincidence that Democrats attempt to paint all Republicans as Trump acolytes because it has successfully become a negative connotation. In Virginia’s governor race, Glenn Youngkin is trying to walk a fine line of not alienating Mr. Trump’s loyal supporters, Mr. Trump has endorsed Mr. Youngkin, and at the same time not alienating Republicans and independents who do not care for Mr. Trump.

Republicans need to shed this identity of being solely the party of Mr. Trump. If it is a faction within the party, for better or worse, so be it. People have the right to support who they wish, but one man this divisive cannot have such a firm grasp on the direction of the Republican Party and expect to win elections. It does not only apply to elected officials who pander but voters. The key to politics is winning elections. Electoral victories require flexibility in terms of appealing to a specific voter base.

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Ultimately, I do not believe Mr. Trump’s approach will lead to much electoral success outside of conservative-safe districts and certainly not the presidency. Complicating the matter is a refusal by too many Republicans to acknowledge Mr. Trump’s defeat in 2020. Not only is it detrimental but inexcusable. Mr. Trump may as well be the ringmaster at a three-ring circus with suggestions of seeking his third term.

The events of January 6th only exacerbated an already difficult situation. Ms. Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, both Republicans, were appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a new select committee on the violent January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Another burden weighing down on Mr. Trump’s ability to effectively lead Republicans. Even if it was nothing more than his rhetoric roiling up a passionate crowd. Mr. Trump cannot withhold accepting some degree of responsibility.

Mr. Trump has strong support among his base but divides other Republicans and alienates independents to an unacceptable extent. There are Republicans who voted Democrat in the 2020 presidential election because they were so disgusted with Mr. Trump. John Kasich admitted in advance that he would vote for Joe Biden. One Republican wrote in a dead former president. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan voted for Ronald Reagan. Former President George W. Bush wrote in Condoleezza Rice.

I cannot for the life of me understand why Republicans would hold the legacy of Mr. Trump’s presidency on a pedestal.

Image Credit: “Donald Trump”  by Gage Skidmore  is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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