Republicans are headed for a long-overdue reckoning… or not. Either way, it will be very painful

Republicans are headed for a long-overdue reckoning… or not. Either way, it will be very painful

Donald Trump kicked off his 2024 presidential bid with such a low-energy harangue of a speech that attendees streamed toward the blocked exits while even Fox News eventually pulled coverage.

When Trump first ran for president in 2016, he promised his roaring hordes they were “going to win so much … you may even get tired of winning. You’re going to say, please, please it’s too much winning. We can’t take it anymore.”

We can’t take it anymore is the only part of Trump’s statement that has stood the test of time after he helped Republicans stack up a towering wall of literally “historic” losses over the last three election cycles.

Trump’s string of defeats proved so brutal that when he finally announced his long-anticipated comeback candidacy, he found it necessary to blame American voters for his extended stay in Loserdom.

“The citizens of our country have not yet realized the full extent and gravity of the pain our nation is going through. And the total effect of the suffering is just starting to take hold,” he said. “They don’t quite feel it yet, but they will very soon. I have no doubt that by 2024 it will sadly be much worse, and they will see much more clearly what happened and what is happening to our country, and the voting will be very different.”

Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly Howard Dean’s “I have a scream” speech after coming third in the Iowa caucuses in 2004. No exuberance, no more promised winning—just a dark foretelling of the exact American carnage Trump had promised to end during his 2021 inaugural address. Trump never fixes anything—never improves or inspires. His one true superpower is willing misery into existence and then feasting on it like he’s at America’s last supper.

In 2016, just enough Americans decided to join Trump’s misery-fest to elevate him to the highest office in the land, but a majority of voters have been stiff-arming him ever since.

But not the Republican Party. In early 2021, after Trump completed the hat trick of delivering the House, the White House, and the Senate to Democrats, GOP leadership could have defected. Sure, it would have divided the party for a time and might have been somewhat painful at the polls. But instead of choosing to abandon the Trump train and reclaim the conservative mantle, Republican leaders decided they weren’t tired enough of the losing. Not even a deadly coup attempt that endangered their lives could steel GOP congressional leaders to make the break.

So here they are. House and Senate Minority Leaders Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell have both managed to survive initial leadership votes, but they will both face another comeuppance early next year.

If they’d had enough spine to take the hit in 2021 after Trump engineered the worst homegrown terrorist attack on the American government in history, neither of them would be in this vice. But instead, Trump is pushing in on them from one side while American voters are closing from the other. If they stand with a majority of voters (but not a majority of their base), the very real possibility exists that Trump gathers up all his marbles and forms a third party. But if they stand with Trump, Republicans stand to alienate a small-but-critical slice of their base that no longer recognizes the monstrosity they have helped Trump create. People like former Arizona Republican Lisa Ghelfi, featured in the lede of a Wall Street Journal article entitled, “Why Independent Voters broke for Democrats in the Midterms.”

Lisa Ghelfi, a 58-year-old registered Republican in Arizona, voted for Donald Trump for president two years ago but has grown tired of his election-fraud claims. It is the main reason she voted for Democrats for governor, senator, secretary of state and attorney general this fall and plans to change her registration to independent.

Ghelfi, a semiretired attorney, still voted downticket for some Republicans who weren’t election deniers.

But “not allowing the election to be settled, it’s very divisive,” she explained, saying she couldn’t rationalize voting for any top-of-the-ticket Republican, all of whom embraced Trump’s baseless lies about the “stolen” election.

Whatever Republicans do now, it’s bound to be both unpopular and painful. And they are just as sure to make the worst possible choice because they have proven time and again they don’t have the fortitude to do anything other than take the path of least resistance.

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