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GOP Chaos Is Not A Trump Plot
The party is in fact fucked.
Tom Emmer, the latest doofus being chewed up in the House Speaker debacle.
“Why did Donald act friendly to Emmer and then throw him under the bus?” Allison Gill, aka Mueller, She Wrote, asked on twitter. Her answer: “Because trump is a fascist and he doesn't want a speaker. He wants the House to be in chaos so ‘he alone can fix it’. The chaos is a feature, not a bug. He's (still) trying to dismantle democracy.”
The argument here is fairly common among anti Trump Democrats; Trump is the leader of the Republican party, and therefore whatever the Republican party does is due to Trump’s leadership or Trump’s manipulation.
Sometimes Trump really does engage in evil conspiracies—most notably when he pushed election lies and coordinated with shady fascist assholes like Roger Stone to stage an insurrection and overthrow the government.
That plot, though was notably designed to directly benefit one Donald Trump in a straightforward way; he wanted to stage a coup and install himself as president. Trump is very focused on his own personal advancement, which he pursues in the most direct and thuggish way possible.
The Speaker battle’s relevance to Trump’s interest is fairly abstract—and you can tell that Trump thinks so too. Most of his statements have been contradictory or fuzzy. Trump stayed out of the initial effort to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy, neither defending him nor cheering on his ouster. When asked if he himself would serve as speaker, Trump said, “Lot of people have been calling me about speaker, all I can say is we’ll do whatever is best for the country and for the Republican Party”—which isn’t a yes or no, but more a shrug. Trump endorsed Ohio rep Jim Jordan, one of his most enthusiastic supporters, as a replacement for McCarthy. But there weren’t reports of him campaigning actively, and Trump’s most inflammatory public statements during Jordan’s bid were about his own trial for fraud in New York, which is taking up most of his time and attention.
There have been rumors Trump is opposed to Emmer and rumors he isn’t opposed; he finally took to social media to bellow “Voting for a Globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake!” Does that mean Trump is following the speaker race closely and deeply opposes Tom Emmer? Or does it mean some weird partisan goon on his team got him to post in a moment’s quite before Trump wanders off to be humiliated in court again? Who knows…but if I was betting, I’d bet on the second.
Most presidential candidates in a healthy, normal party wouldn’t intervene in a Speaker battle at all—or if they did, they’d do so quietly and try to stabilize things without too much fuss, because they’d figure that a unified party is to their advantage in elections. And those theoretical normal presidential candidates would be right. Trump isn’t helping himself in the long term by lobbing the occasional gasoline grenade on the fire.
Trump doesn’t really think about the long term though—and he doesn’t think about party politics. He thinks about only Trump. He’s shown over and over that he has no interest in helping the Republican party; his focus on his own lost election and his own personal grievances helped the GOP lose the Senate elections and the majority in Georgia in 2020. He’s refused to pledge to support any Republican nominee but himself, effectively promising to run third party and destroy the GOP if he’s not coronated.
Having Trump treat the party alternately like the mark in a protection racket and/or like a despised vassal has had wide-ranging effects on the GOP. Longtime party leaders and loyalists, like Mitch McConnell or Mitt Romney, are reluctant to sign on to whatever hair-brained quasi-legal scheme Trump comes up with, and so tend to find themselves at odds with him. Shiftless grifters and principleless toadies like Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan are eager to kiss his ass and praise whatever he shits out upon them. That creates party riffs that don’t have anything to do with policy differences, or regional constituent issues, but are entirely about loyalty to Trump.
More, in attacking party loyalists, and smearing any attachment that is not directly to himself, Trump has essentially made hating Republicans a central part of Republican identity. An empty-headed fascistic anti-establishment bias has been part of GOP politics for a long time, but Trump gave it wings, and the result is that people like Gaetz oppose other Republicans the way they oppose Democrats—just because. Trump’s solidified anti GOP partisanship as part of the GOP brand. Which is another way of saying that Trump has gone a long way towards splitting the Republican party apart into (at least) two factions, defined not so much by policy differences as by their overpowering hatred for one another.
This doesn’t exactly benefit Trump—a divided GOP is less likely to put him in office, and therefore less likely to save him from his legal woes. And it wasn’t exactly Trump’s plan to sow chaos either; it’s just a natural result of his contempt for any non-Trump based loyalty. He’s smashing the GOP because it’s there and sort of in his way and he likes smashing things. But there isn’t necessarily a strategy to the smashing beyond that.
So there are a couple of takeaways here. First, the GOP’s troubles at this point are a result of forces Trump unleashed, rather than a result of Trump’s ongoing manipulations. Which is bad news for Republicans; Trump could have a heart attack tomorrow and be in his coffin by next week, but most of the splits in the GOP would remain and probably intensify indefinitely. There’s no easy path back.
Second…the GOP’s mess is really a mess. It’s not a strategy or a calculated step towards some fascist something.
Don’t get me wrong, things can always get worse. But the GOP looks like it’s coming apart because it’s coming apart. The party isn’t doubling its power by tearing itself in half like Rumpelstiltskin; it’s paralyzing and wounding itself, with potentially dire results for its long term viability and electoral fortunes.
I can’t promise that the GOP is going to off itself in front of us, or that if something else takes its place it will be better. I can say, though, that the current spectacle is not good for the GOP and not good for Trump. SC Senator and born-again Trump sycophant Lindsay Graham’s words on the day of Trump’s inauguration still seem potentially prescient: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.......and we will deserve it.”
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