What does it mean to be a Republican in the year 2022? Being hated. Yes, by the left—but more importantly, also by members of your own party.
Here in the bad, red place, hardly anyone gets along. Especially after January 6th. Why? Consider this a simple question: Whom does Donald Trump actually like?
In the old days, all a Republican had to do to make Trump happy was kiss his ass with some cheap flattery. Say he’s the biggest, strongest, handsomest, smartest, richest dude in history and that would be enough. But today, being on Trump’s good side requires accepting his 2020 election lie and endorsing his various schemes to overturn the results.
And if you’re not gonna do that? Then GTFO. Trump doesn’t want you around. As long as Trump is in charge, your future in the GOP is dead.
Just ask Mike Pence.
Pence spent four years as vice president gazing adoringly into Trump’s profile and swooning over his broad shoulders only to be cast out when he refused to block Joe Biden’s certification as president. Trump told Pence, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this.” When Pence didn’t, he was promptly sentenced to death, political and otherwise, by Trump’s troops who chanted “Hang Mike Pence” as they marauded the halls of Congress. Trump told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that his supporters wanted to hang Mike Pence “because it’s common sense, Jon.” Trump recently described Pence as “mortally wounded.”
Likewise, after Attorney General William Barr told a reporter there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election, Trump fumed at him: “You must really hate Trump.” Similarly, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger lost any goodwill they might have felt from the former president when they informed him they could not “find” enough votes for him to win that state. Ditto Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
Because here’s the rub: To the former president, being “Trump’s friend” means never saying no to him. Even when it comes to acting on lies that caused an insurrection.
It’s the friendship of the mob boss: Do what he tells you and there won’t be any trouble. Which explains a lot of the behind-the-scenes grumbling in Republican politics. The guys paying protection money never actually like the mob boss.
Then there is the handful of Republicans who decided to openly buck Trump.
Ten Republicans in the House and seven Republicans in the Senate voted to impeach Trump for inciting the January 6th insurrection. Mitt Romney was among them. Generally known as a mild-mannered Mormon, he reportedly yelled, “You have caused this!” at the Electoral College-objecting Josh Hawley as Trump’s mob breached the Capitol.
Another objector, Jim Jordan, attempted to escort Liz Cheney away from danger during that time. She slapped his hand away, telling him, “Get away from me. You fucking did this.”
Today it’s the Romneys and the Cheneys who are getting yelled at.
They’re harangued by the hard-core Trumpists and lukewarm anti-anti Trumpists who want to pretend that January 6th never happened. The two wings align to make the lives of pro-impeachment Republicans as miserable as possible through ridicule, seizure of positions, censure, and primaries.
And it’s working. Cheney and Adam Kinzinger now stand pretty much alone when it comes to taking concrete action to hold anyone from Trump World accountable for the attack.
Republican leadership—who are functionally MAGA sheeple with taxpayer-funded Washington office suites—have stood aside, unwilling or incapable of holding Trump accountable. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy initially stated that Trump had responsibility for the mob attack, but then declined to make him face any consequences.
Both still support him as party leader and both have said that they will back him as the 2024 Republican presidential nominee, and in the midterms, will support his endorsed candidates.
If McConnell and McCarthy hate anyone more than Trump, it might be themselves for licking the boots of the man they know was responsible for an attack on their own house.
Even in Super-Duper Trump World, things are tense. In the media, people like Alex Jones are on permanent offense to push Newsmax, which pushes OANN, which pushes radio hosts and assorted conservative media websites, which push Fox News further and further out onto the fringe.
Because of the gravitational pull of these internet loons, Republicans in Congress have to answer to trolls-turned-member of Congress such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, who relishes her role as Trump’s elected enforcer.
Although Greene regularly harasses people of all political stripes, her Twitter beef with fellow Republican Nancy Mace stands out. Greene went after Mace because Mace criticized another troll-turned-member, Lauren Boebert, for her bigoted remarks about a colleague.
Former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw, a self-styled live-action dynamo of the Trump era, attempted to push back against the Greene gang. Upset over being unfairly targeted with a vote to fund vaccine systems, he issued a warning that Trump-aligned “grifters” were lying to voters about the existence of a vaccine database to track and punish the unvaccinated. Crenshaw said people needed to see the difference between “performance artists” and “legislators” and mentioned that Kinzinger, considered a traitor for his work on the January 6th committee, had voted with Trump 99 percent of the time.
These fights were, on the surface, about vaccine politics and speech, but the reason someone like Greene gets away with it, and someone like Cheney gets booted by leadership, goes back to January 6th: Greene insists Trump is the one true president and that the rioters are “political prisoners.” Cheney doesn’t. Mace and Crenshaw waver. They stepped out of line.
And that’s what this is really all about.
It goes like this: Trump’s election deniers hate anyone who doesn’t go along completely with the lie. Meanwhile, the people who believe that Trump is responsible for January 6th and hate what he did—as well as the people who can’t bring themselves to take a firm position—both hate the situation they’re in.
For now, the election deniers are in charge because it’s impossible to be a Republican in good standing (with Trump) unless you attest to the lie and approve of its subsequent actions: sham audits, smears against election workers and voting machine companies, and new laws designed to make overturning the 2024 election possible.
The Trump wing isn’t interested in building a big-tent party; it wants to maintain and expand the political army that showed up for him on January 6th. And not just the randos in camo and sweatpants, but the famous people in Congress and the media, too. Those are the kind of Republicans Trump wants to elevate.
Think yes to “Patriot Purge” with Tucker Carlson. No to Sunday soup with Chris Wallace. Think about the Minnesota Republican gubernatorial field where, in a recent debate, not a single candidate would say that Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Think about the Senate candidates endorsed by Trump with a record of violence and a willingness to do Trump’s bidding.
What a telling combination.
As always, that’s the message of the mob boss. Do what he wants and you’ll be left alone. But say no? That’s when you get violence. Happy now?