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Republicans must unite for the party’s and the nation’s good

If You Ask Me

That was quite an exhibition of party unity staged by the Republican National Committee at its annual spring meeting for donors the weekend after Easter.

The Saturday session of the weekend at Palm Beach was moved up the road to the Mar-a-Lago Club, site of the summer White House (2017-21) and the principal home of former President Donald Trump, who still claims to believe he won the 2020 election. Had he truly won, the entire weekend would have been at Mar-a-Lago, providing Trump’s personal business with considerably more than the $100,000 he charged his party for the fancy Saturday night dinner.

Of course, Trump was asked to give the principal address by the RNC chairwoman, Ronna Romney McDaniel, niece of Mitt and granddaughter of George. As expected, the former president’s hour-long, adlibbed remarks were largely devoted to replaying the 2020 election that was stolen from him because of the widespread election fraud only he and his truest believers found in places like Georgia and Pennsylvania.

But he did digress a tad, reserving some attention to Dr. Anthony Fauci and his encouragement of mask wearing.

“Have you ever seen anybody that is so full of crap?” he delicately asked about one of the heroes of the pandemic.

Then he moved on to some of his own party’s hierarchy, starting with Mike Pence. Trump said that while he liked his vice president   “so much,” he was “disappointed” that, while presiding over the insurrection-interrupted count of the electoral votes, he chose to resume the vote instead of having the “courage to send it back to the legislatures.”

The bitterest words were reserved for the McConnells, as in the former Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and his spouse, Trump’s Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.  

Chao was mocked for quickly resigning her post to protest the Trump-led insurrection Jan. 6 and was accused of being an ingrate because neither she nor her mate ever properly thanked the president for her plum political appointment.

But his most heartfelt name calling was reserved for the senator who had done so much for the Trump administration but offended the president by admitting Joe Biden won the election. For that offense, Trump called McConnell “a stone, cold loser” and more pointedly, “a dumb SOB.” He actually spelled out the initials, I guess to be sure his donors understood. Always thinking of others, that’s Trump.

After the divisive dinner, some Republican leaders appeared on the Sunday morning interview shows, where they took the usual position of not wanting to do anything to rile the party’s base of Trump supporters.  

The well-regarded Sen. John Thune of South Dakota dismissed the remarks as just Trump being Trump, “part of the style and tone that comes with the former president.” And Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, one of the more enlightened Southern governors, claimed the name calling was “no big deal” but conceded, “We don’t need that. We need unity.”  

But Liz Cheney, the high-ranking Republican House member, forthrightly charged Trump with “using the same language that he knows provoked violence on January 6th.”

Keeping the base happy is good politics but not necessarily good for this increasingly divided party. No matter how contented the base is, it isn’t good enough or large enough to win elections.  Even when the base turns out in unusually high numbers, as it did in 2020, it isn’t enough as Trump’s excesses inspired an even larger turnout from the opposition.

The two party system is all we’ve got and for it to succeed, we need two strong and creative political parties that share a willingness to compromise for the nation’s good. That will never happen if Donald Trump is allowed to run for president again.

The country is trying to recover from one of the worst periods in its history. Biden is off to a somewhat rocky start with its outcome largely dependent on how the economy reacts to the recovery programs that cry out for compromise and immigration reforms that Biden seems so far as unable to envision as Trump was unwilling.

To do all that, we need both parties working together, a highly unlikely prospect, considering the people calling themselves Republicans and Democrats.  Former GOP House Speaker John Boehner said it well in his new book, “On the House: A Washington Memoir,” when he characterized frequent cable news guests from Congress like Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the reason government has failed the people in recent years:

“Controversy sells and outrage and rebellion are rewarded,” Boehner writes. “In part, it’s because of people who come to Washington intent on promoting themselves instead of working together. They claim to be true believers and purists, like the right-wing Freedom Caucus or the left-wing Squad, but really they are just political terrorists.”

 

Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.

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