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Trump’s scorched-earth tactics split Republican Party

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 11/24/2020 Rob Crilly
a group of people holding a sign: Supporters shout as President Donald Trump waves from his passing motorcade as he arrives at the White House after golfing at his Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. © J. Scott Applewhite/AP Supporters shout as President Donald Trump waves from his passing motorcade as he arrives at the White House after golfing at his Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020.

President Trump’s supporters in Georgia have a new target: the Republican Party.

In a sign of the discord unleashed by Trump since being defeated at the ballot box, demonstrators gathered at the weekend outside the Georgia Capitol with a call for “Republican traitors” to back the president's effort to overturn results.

"For any Republicans not explicitly helping Trump to 'stop the steal,' we will make sure you are never elected ever again," said a protester in a viral video clip.

The battle cry follows Trump’s attacks on Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Mike DeWine of Ohio, both of whom face reelection in 2022, amid growing fears that an embittered outgoing president is intent on a scorched-earth attempt to rid the GOP of his enemies.

The president has attacked Kemp repeatedly on Twitter, for example, demanding he step in to stop what he claims (without evidence) are voting irregularities. "Where is @BrianKempGA?"

Although the midterm elections are two years away, the attacks have left some senior figures unwilling to cross Trump and his Twitter bully pulpit or risk alienating his followers or fundraising machine.

Supporters say Trump’s policies and character reinvigorated the party in 2016.

Tea Party movement co-founder Michael Johns said: “No Republican in our lifetime has garnered more votes than this president or been able to bring more people together in an activist way. We’d be making a huge mistake not to learn the lessons of Trumpism.”

It is not a case of rooting out Trump’s opponents, he said, but ensuring that every legitimate vote was counted.

But Matt K. Lewis, whose 2016 book, Too Dumb to Fail, portrayed a GOP that had sacrificed conservative ideas for short-term electoral gains, said Trump was doing what he always did: looking out for himself.

“I just think he doesn’t care about collateral damage,” he said. “He doesn’t care about liberal democracy, he doesn’t care about the conservative movement or the Republican Party. I don’t think this is an elaborate plan to expose his enemies — it is him doing what he needs to do to save face and remain relevant.”

The president has launched a string of attacks on his internal opponents before and after the election.

“Few people know where they’ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski,” he said earlier this year when she said she was “struggling” to support Trump’s reelection amid criticism of his handling of protests against police brutality.

The dividing lines have only deepened since media organizations called the election for his challenger Joe Biden.

Last week, Kemp certified Georgia’s 16 electoral votes for Biden, prompting a Twitter broadside accusing the governor of refusing to expose “thousands of illegal ballots” and standing in the way of a Trump victory.

“Why won’t they do it, and why are they so fast to certify a meaningless tally?” he asked.

As well as trying to root out supposed enemies, Trump has also boosted allies.

He recently announced his support for Ronna McDaniel’s attempt to secure another term as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. Election defeat usually prompts a departure of senior figures and a fresh start, leading commentators to conclude that Trump is trying to retain control of the national party.

Johns said the appeal of Trumpism remained among voters suspicious of the establishment.

“And a party that runs on change and greater accountability and putting Americans first will do well, and I don’t see any of that changing,” he said.

Other voices are urging restraint in bloodletting.

Republican strategist Doug Mayer said it was vital for the party to look forward rather than backward. And he said that the anger of some Trump supporters and claims that Biden’s win was illegitimate should be treated as part of a grieving process worthy of “compassion” rather than ridicule.

“The vast majority of Republicans are interested in what would be considered a classical liberal debate and conversation,” he said. “We need to focus on that, so we can get people to vote for you and winning elections.”

Presidential historian and Reagan biographer Craig Shirley said Trump’s effort to exert control after defeat was not unprecedented. President Gerald Ford tried to install an RNC chairman after his 1976 defeat, but the party ultimately chose a compromise candidate.

“I think after all the histrionics, all the battles, and everything else, there’ll be an uneasy peace that will settle in the Republican Party because there will be a new opponent in the form of Joe Biden,” he said.

“Having an ideological opponent is a great organizing principle.”

Tags: News, Donald Trump, Republican Party, Ronna Romney McDaniel, Midterm Elections, 2020 Elections, White House

Original Author: Rob Crilly

Original Location: Trump’s scorched-earth tactics split Republican Party

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