Two events prompted the title of this week’s post. The first involved the failure of the Republican Party to discipline Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for her social media support of violence against Democratic Party members, not to mention her mocking of school shootings and 9/11 victims. It would be safe to say that Rep. Greene belongs squarely within the Trump wing of the Republican Party.
The second event involved the Republican Party’s vote—by a margin of 145 to 61—to keep Rep. Liz Cheney in her leadership position, this despite her vote in favor of impeachment of former President Donald Trump. It would be safe to conclude that Rep. Cheney has placed herself squarely outside of that Trump wing.
A Republican apologist might cast these two events as evidence of the Republican Party’s “big tent.” After all, they might claim, these two events are not contradictory. They merely represent our party’s tolerance for opposing views.
Spirited Reasoners, on the other hand, might conclude that the party finds itself blithering at the unwelcome arrival of a Cornelian dilemma. “Shall we continue to follow the demonstrably false claims of our pied piper, Donald Trump? After all, he seems to command the lion’s share of Republican Party votes, not to mention his ability to get voters to the polls. Or shall we insist on telling the truth while espousing Republican values of individual liberty, hard work, and smaller government? We might lose some elections in the near term by going that way, but over time, we could re-establish our national majority.”
One would think the answer would be obvious, if only because honesty is ultimately the best policy. But, if the presidency of Donald Trump has taught us anything, respect for honesty can be relegated to a distant fourth place behind xenophobia, racism, and fear of socialism among 21st Century Republican voters. How can the former Grand Old Party possibly address a choice like that?
My best guess is that when the chips are down the party will choose to do exactly what it did this past week in the cases of Reps. Greene and Cheney; viz., exactly nothing. While chastising the “insane” nature of Rep. Greene’s comments, party leaders were unwilling to say or do much more than that. Then, when offered the opportunity to discipline Rep. Cheney for her disapproval of the actions of Donald Trump, the same party leaders voted to ignore her actions.
Cynics will undoubtedly argue that none of this will make any difference in the off-year elections of 2022. Republicans hailing from pro-Trump districts will continue to win their elections while spouting whatever Q-Anon theories their constituents happen to believe. Those from more moderate districts will survive primary challenges in most cases and will manage to cling to their seats in the same manner they survived the 2020 elections. Meanwhile, Democrats who won their elections in 2020 can be counted on to use the specter of Donald Trump as a reason to vote Democratic in 2022.
One would think, however, that after the events at the Capitol this past January 6th, many of those in the more honest wing of the Republican Party would begin having second thoughts about their allegiance. How long are they willing to be associated with fellow party members who seemed willing to sacrifice the U. S. Constitution in order to establish a Trumpian dictatorship? My guess is that we will begin to see a slow contraction of the Republican Party as more and more members of its moderate wing choose to leave the party after being shouted down by extremists from the far right.
Where will they go? I wouldn’t be surprised to see a third-party movement among moderate Republicans in New England, the Midwest, and Pacific states. Third parties rarely make it big in the United States, but then, neither do honest politicians like Abraham Lincoln, who cast his lot with a newly formed party in the late 1850s.