On Fighting, ‘Surrender’ Caucuses, and the post-Trump GOP
“I can be part of the ‘Surrender Caucus’ or I can fight for our country,” so said Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks on Tuesday as prepares for a January 6 fight to contest the results of the Electoral College that he has exactly a zero percent chance of winning.
Before Donald Trump even announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination, the Republican base was grumbling and ready to erupt at its party establishment.
In 2008, John McCain was the Republican nominee. He was everything that establishmentarian conventional wisdom wanted in a nominee. A statesmen with lots of experience, someone who had served his country in war, and a moderate who could appeal to independents. McCain would go on to lose the Electoral College to Barack Obama 365–173.
Four years later, it was Mitt Romney’s turn. He too was the establishment’s desired candidate. He was a moderate who, as a Republican governor of a dark blue state, had proven he could appeal to independents. While he was not a war hero like McCain, he was a competent technocrat who could reach across the aisle and work with Democrats to get things done, which is what most voters want. He would go on to lose the Electoral College to Obama 332–206.
Another four years later and Donald Trump was the nominee. If the establishment could create a candidate in a lab based on their perception of the worst possible candidate, it would be Trump. He made rudeness and abrasiveness part of his appeal which, in addition to being uncouth, is no way to win over independents. He had no experience to speak of beyond his celebrity brand and whose policies were said to be racist, Islamophobic, and pro-Russian. He would go on to beat Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College 304–227.
Today, Trump has lost the Electoral College by the same margin, faithless electors notwithstanding. Yet, Trump, his legal team, and followers vow to press on, winning the applause of Republican voters and causing Republican politicians, like Brooks, to play along.
To understand, why Trump’s fighting, such as it is, appeals to people, all one has to do is look at the history of the Republican Party from 2008–2015. John McCain, at times in 2008, did not seem to be fully invested in his campaign. It was if he did not want to stand in the way of history. Beyond McCain himself, his campaign staff was dominated by people who today collect checks from MSNBC. At least one of whom did not even vote for her boss in 2008 because, like others, she has tried to disassociate herself from Sarah Palin, allowing them to blame her for their failings. The other, on the day this article was written, formally became a Democrat.
When he was not running inept campaigns for president, McCain was running for re-election in Arizona. In 2010 he was claiming we need to “complete the danged fence.” Yet, after winning, it seemed his number one legislative priority was working with Democrats on some sort of amnesty.
Speaking of 2010, that year gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives just two years after being thoroughly defeated in 2006 and 2008. They ran on, among other things, getting rid of Obamacare. But of course, they once they got in power, they said that they were just one-half of one-third of the government, give us the Senate and then things will change. In 2014, they got control of the Senate and not much seemed to change, except for more amnesty proposals and when Trump was elected, they still did not repeal Obamacare.
Meanwhile, back in 2012, the logic that undergird the Romney campaign was that Obama was an incompetent boob who did not know what he was doing. Romney, as a business man who had actually worked in the private sector, was the steady hand of competence the country needed who knew how the economy worked. The logic that undergird the Obama campaign was that Romney, and by logical extension all Republicans, were going to put black people back in chains, were waging wars on women, pushing grandmas off of cliffs, and giving steelworkers’ wives cancer. To which, Romney’s response was “that’s very mean” and to then go back and talk about taxes and regulations.
When people on the left or in the media ask how a conservative who traditionally believed in character and morality could go from supporting a war hero in 2008 and a good and decent family man in 2012 to supporting Donald ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ Trump, this is why. If the left is going to tar Mitt Romney as the devil incarnate, we might as well nominate the biggest a-hole we could find, because at least he will not back down from a fight and may even take the fight to the Democrats, left-wing culture war warriors, and the media.
On policy, during the Trump era, there has been no serious attempt to push amnesty, he appears (“appears” being the key word) to be righting the wrongs of trade deals past, he stuck with Brett Kavanaugh during that nomination fight, he’s stood by American historical icons as the radical left has sought to cancel them, he at least pays lip service to the concerns of pro-lifers and social conservatives, and has denounced Critical Race Theory by name and banned its teaching throughout the government.
And now he’s fighting the election results and despite the fact that he has a batting average that even pitchers cringe at, he continues to insist that victory is just around the corner.
Of course, all is not well in Trump World. If Republicans past were George McClellan, Trump is Douglas Haig. The Trump campaign, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and others keep filing lawsuits and they keep immediately being blown up by Bertha guns.
To keep up the fighting shtick, the Trump legal team has resorted to citing Ruth Bader Ginsburg to justify their seemingly never-ending flood of lawsuits. Additional non-conservative arguments have originated out of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose lawsuit that was joined by 17 other Republican state attorneys general, if it was successful, would have destroyed federalism.
All of this can be frustrating to observe. Trump and his allies are attacking the very process that separates free countries from bananas republics under the pretext of “fighting” because a certain percentage of the rank-and-file is tired of losing or wants revenge because the left delegitimized Bush 43 and Trump, so now it is time for them to get their comeuppance.
They continue to “fight” despite knowing full well they have zero chance of winning. Yet, many — -not all, of course — of those who see this for what it is, want to go back to the world that made Trump possible and seem unbothered by the fact that their preferred candidates — McCain and Romney — lost.
MSNBC Republicans, Larry Hogan peddlers, and others fail to see that Trump did not just happen randomly. Republican voters revolt when their politicians push amnesty. Right now many want social media regulatory reform, the legal details do not matter, they just want their politicians to “stand up” and “fight” Big Tech. So, what makes anyone think that a pro-choice, pro-gun control governor of Maryland is what the party wants or even needs right now?
Of course, Trump World’s narrative of the pre-Trump GOP is not fully correct. George H.W. Bush, the quintessentially moderate-establishment Republican president, stood by Clarence Thomas during his confirmation. George W. Bush’s legal team fought, and unlike Trump’s, actually won. Mitch McConnell, to great annoyance of many, single handedly kept Merrick Garland off the Supreme Court and Republicans, should they keep the Senate, will certainly put the kabash on any radically left-wing proposals to come out of either the Biden White House or the House of Representatives.
If the Republican Party wants move beyond Trump, and judging by the election results it needs to, then it needs to purge the worst instincts of its disparate factions that despise each other.
Yes, it was foolish to believe Republicans could repeal Obamacare when Obama was still president, but does not mean they have come to some sort of agreement on “comprehensive immigration reform” because we need to “get things done.” You can, and judging by the past month, should argue character matters, but so do winning and what happens after you win.
Similarly, a movement that demands a fight to the death over every inch of ground, even when victory is impossible is a movement that will be relegated to irrelevancy. Demanding you party’s leaders stand for principles is one thing, demanding they sign on to futile purity stunts is quite another. Let’s just say, Trump were to run again in 2024, who out there that voted for Biden has looked at how Trump has conducted himself in the past month and said “Yeah, I made a mistake. Give me four more years of that.”
To return to Rep. Brooks, he is lying to people, essentially saying if Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20, it’s not because Biden won more votes or nearly all the court cases or that even if Senate Republicans were to go along with this stunt — which they won’t — somehow House Democrats were not interested in making Trump the winner, but because Republicans failed to fight. And of course, if Republicans fail to fight, then you should give people like Mo Brooks and people like him more power and influence.
For the Republican Party to be successful, its leaders need to show that they are more concerned with their voters’ concerns than the Beltway’s. However, its voters also can not equate basic democratic norms such as acknowledging that Joe Biden won the election with surrender and must allow its leaders to operate in a world of governed by reality.