Monday, December 14, 2020

Do Republicans want voters like me or do they want QAnon?

 Over the weekend, my congressman sent out an email newsletter to his constituents. One major part of his week on Capitol Hill was conspicuously absent, however. I went to his Twitter feed and Facebook pages, both the government and the private ones, and didn’t see this bit of news on those sites either.

My congressman was one of the 126 House Republicans who signed onto the Texas lawsuit attempting to overturn the election last week. The lawsuit was quickly dismissed by the Supreme Court because, as Erick Erickson explained, it was a hot pile of steaming garbage that was intended more for public relations by Republican officeholders than a serious piece of litigation. As much as I’d like to believe that my stern phone call to my congressman’s office was responsible for some measure of shame in joining the frivolous Texas lawsuit, I know better.

When I say that the Texas lawsuit was a PR stunt, I mean that it and pretty much everything else that Republicans do these days is intended for two audiences. One of these audiences is Donald Trump. Most of the preening and virtue signaling by Republicans these days can be easily understood as demonstrations of loyalty to the president. Some of these demonstrations may be genuine but many are probably just defensive measures to avoid drawing President Trump’s fire. Along with deflecting the president’s attention, Republicans, especially in deeply red districts also want to demonstrate their loyalty for Trump supporters to see.

Why Republicans fear angering Trump and his base should be clear after looking at the wreckage of the careers of traditional Republicans who did not get on the Trump train. There have been few who could openly criticize Mr. Trump and escape intact.

Any lingering doubts will be dispelled by the crowd of red hats over the weekend at a “Stop the Steal” rally who chanted on video, “Destroy the GOP! Destroy the GOP!”

When it nominated and rallied behind Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016, the Republican Party made a deal with the devil. Now, the bill is coming due.

Republicans have positioned themselves between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, the GOP base is aligned firmly behind Donald Trump and many are becoming more and more radical. Fringe factions like the conspiracy group QAnon are growing in influence in the party to the point where at least two QAnon adherents will be seated in the new Congress next year. Many Republicans who don’t openly support QAnon nevertheless buy into other conspiracy theories such as widespread election fraud.

On the other end of the spectrum are people like me. I am a conservative and a constitutionalist and I was a lifelong Republican up until 2016 when Donald Trump took over the party. That year, I became an independent and voted for a third-party presidential candidate.

I had hoped that after four years, when Trump lost his re-election bid (I never doubted that he would lose), that the Republican Party would come to its senses. Today, that seems increasingly unlikely. After Trump’s defeat, Republicans are acting even more spineless and - let’s just say it - crazy than they did before the election.

Rather than cutting their losses attempting to salvage some shred of dignity and principle, the party is doubling down on Trump. Rush Limbaugh and Allen West, chairman of the Texas GOP, are openly hinting at secession. Mike Flynn, pardoned by President Trump and a new darling of the Republican Party, called for “limited martial law” and “temporarily suspend[ing] the Constitution” in order to give Donald Trump a national do-over. Diamond and Silk have called on the military to launch a coup. And yes, 126 House Republicans jettisoned federalism to endorse the assumed right of the State of Texas to tinker in the internal affairs of other states… but only when it suits Republicans, of course.

Even worse, some members of the MAGA base are becoming violent. Elections officials in Georgia have received death threats, as had Christopher Krebs, a cybersecurity expert at the Department of Homeland Security who was fired after the election for undermining Trump’s narrative of widespread election fraud. In scenes reminiscent of the BLM protests last summer, Proud Boys rampaged through the streets of Washington, DC over the weekend.

All this leaves conservative constitutionalists with no political home. As I’ve written before, I am no Democrat and I still disagree with the left on most policy issues, just as I have most of my life. On the other hand, I increasingly disagree with Republican policy as well. The fact that most Republicans are not even standing idly by as President Trump tries to steal the election but are actively siding with the coup plotters against the Constitution represents a heckuva big policy difference.

When I look at my congressman’s newsletter, I see an attempt to deceive his constituents. He betrayed the Constitution by joining the Texas lawsuit and then is trying to keep a low profile by not ‘fessing up to his actions to the voters, probably a majority who will not hear about his participation in the Republican attempt to overturn the will of the people. He’s trying to have it both ways by showing his loyalty to Trump and the MAGA base and then hoping the rest of his more moderate constituents won’t hear about it. As one of my Twitter friends said, “He throws rocks and hides his hands.”

I would be willing to bet my congressman is not the only one acting this way.

As to the question in the title of this piece, I think the answer is obvious. The current crop of Republicans values the Trumpy, QAnon, radical, ready-for-martial-law-as-long-as-Republicans-implement-it voters much more than it values traditional Republicans.

So, in one of 2020’s ironies, I find myself agreeing with the MAGA demonstrators.

With a few exceptions, I don’t trust the Republicans to do the right thing. There are still some good Republicans, but at this point, it seems that they are few and far between. Too few and too far between. The Republican Party now must be considered actively hostile to the Constitution and the rule of law, to say nothing of principles of limited government.

Burn it down.

Photo credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel/

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