The Post-Election Civil War Is Actually Within The GOP

Trump's election lies have created a divide between pro-coup and anti-coup Republicans, turning the base against officials. It could cost them Georgia.
Donald Trump (AP) and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (Official Photo)

Donald Trump (AP) and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (Official Photo)

As Donald Trump continues his war on democracy, repeatedly making unfounded claims of voter fraud, Republicans have found themselves faced with two choices: defend Trump’s indefensible lies and damaging conspiracy theories or find the spines they abandoned in 2016 and rise up against the leader of their own party. While the majority of congressional Republicans and members of his administration have claimed, without evidence, that the election was rigged or have remained deafeningly silent, a small number have stood up to Trump’s nonsense.

However, rather than being rewarded for stating what is obvious, to everyone but Trump and his enablers, any Republican who stands up to the President has faced the wrath of him and his associates, with the Trump faithful seeking to tear down the dissenters and discredit them. Those who are now opposing Trump’s position have previously sold their souls, their honor, and their dignity for the short term benefits they’ve received in recent years, from positive presidential tweets to rallies in their own states that energized MAGA supporters behind them. But, just as Trump’s hands can quickly tweet out a positive message that helps boost the careers of sycophants, he is equally able to eviscerate them in the blink of any eye, drawing on the support of his ever-loyal base.

This power, afforded to him by the GOP, is why, to be a Republican in Trump’s party, you have to believe the so-called deep state is trying to remove him from office in a massive election fraud conspiracy that includes dozens of judges, Republican election officials at numerous levels, the GOP governors in Arizona and Georgia, together with the Attorney General. For any Republican to reject this insanely ridiculous, baseless, and false theory is to put the last four years of knee bending and ring kissing to waste.

Look at Brian Kemp, the former Secretary of State in Georgia, who rigged his own gubernatorial election by illegitimately removing thousands of people from voter rolls. He did everything in his power to steal the state for the Republican Party. While he was successful in 2018, defeating Stacey Abrams, he couldn’t do the same in 2020, as Democrats under his former rival in the Governor’s race rallied people across Georgia to flip it for the first time in nearly 30 years. Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger added to Trump’s anger by refusing to make moves to overturn the election results and by certifying the results after two recounts.

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After degrading himself and throwing his reputation in the mud to please his party’s chief, what was Kemp’s reward? Trump attacked him on Twitter and live on national television. Speaking to Maria Bartiromo for his post-election interview, Trump decried that he’s “ashamed” that he endorsed Kemp and believes he’s “done absolutely nothing” and is “terrible”. Was humiliating himself really worth that glowing review?

These attacks on Kemp are looming large in the Georgia Senate runoff, threatening to cost the Republican Party two crucial seats that will decide control of the chamber. During Trump’s rally in Georgia on Saturday night, at an event supposedly held to garner support for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are fighting for their political careers, the President turned it into a public therapy session where he repeatedly aired his false claims of widespread voter fraud. Trump’s ranting resulted in the crowd shouting down the two GOP candidates, instead of listening to their pitch to voters, demanding that they “fight for Trump”.

More concerningly for the GOP, the President’s behavior has even led to his supporters and prominent Republicans calling on Georgians to boycott the election on January 5th if Kemp doesn’t do as Trump requests. With Trump doing little to nothing to discourage a boycott, the baseless claims made by a bitter loser could hand Democrats a crucial advantage in a tight race in the former Republican stronghold.

These attacks have resulted in death threats targeting Republican officials in Georgia and election workers who are simply doing their jobs, causing some to speak out:

Bill Barr has had a similar experience. He came out of political retirement at the beginning of 2019 to become Attorney General for the second time, after Trump fired Jeff Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. While there is plenty of behavior from his first stint as AG that could be criticized, Barr was initially seen as a qualified individual, at least compared to Trump’s other cabinet nominees. However, over the last nearly 2 years, Barr has tarnished his legacy, ensuring he’ll forever be remembered as the Trump lackey who tried to hamper and mischaracterize the Mueller report, also removing the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York for investigating Trump’s allies, and who ordered the Justice Department to defend the President in a defamation case tied to a rape allegation.

It might be thought that all of this cronyism would have given Barr a free pass from Trump’s attacks, but it turns out that would be a very naive view. On Tuesday, Barr announced that the DOJ hadn’t uncovered any evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Almost instantly, Trump’s legal team released a statement attacking Barr for failing to conduct “any semblance of a Department of Justice investigation”.

Days later, the pair reportedly had an “intense” meeting in the Oval Office and, shortly afterwards, rumors emerged that Barr could be fired with weeks to go until the new president takes office. It would be an embarrassing, although fitting, end to Barr’s time in the DOJ, to be thrown out of office by the man he corruptly helped to protect and defend.

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Even Kellyanne Conway, who was the President’s one-time golden staffer, has not been immune from Trump’s disloyalty, despite the enormous personal sacrifices she made for him, with her husband publicly attacking Trump, the professional criticism she has faced, and the very public airing of the tensions she has had with her daughter. She remained by Trump’s side until her departure, on her own terms, from the White House, leaving with a praising tweet from the President. However, after she called time on Trump’s presidency and acknowledged Biden’s victory, Trump’s MAGA fans turned on her, undoubtedly spurred on by his behavior. Unlike previous attacks, this time Trump has refused to come to her rescue. No one is safe if they diverge from his false narrative about the 2020 election, even Miss Alternative Facts.

Yes, Trump is acting like this because he has zero loyalty to any of these politicians and officials, but it is also a deliberate tactic by him in an attempt to retain his grip on the GOP after his presidency ends. It cannot be denied that Trump has built a base of support that is loyal to him and him alone, not the Republican Party. If he wants that base to vote for the GOP, or to back an outside challenger, or even to abstain from the process altogether, they will listen. He wants to remind Republicans that they cannot abandon him after inauguration day. They still need to follow his orders, or find themselves subject to an aggressive Twitter storm that could cost them their career.

While Democrats might gleefully watch from the sidelines as the Republican Party tears itself to shreds, it’s important to remember that Trump’s words have consequences. In less than 50 days, he might be out of office, but Trump will still wield power in the Republican Party and the fear he’s instilling with these attacks will remain.

As scandal after scandal mounted against Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and throughout his time in office, a nickname was used to describe him: ‘The Teflon Don’. This harks back to the moniker used for John Gotti, the head of a notorious crime syndicate, after he evaded justice in three high-profile trials. However, Republicans should remember that Trump’s ability to date to avoid accountability for his misdemeanors is not his only comparable quality to such a figure from American history.

Just like American gangsters, Trump requires people to ‘kiss the ring’ and show him unswerving devotion because, if they take one step out of line and abandon him, he will not hesitate to cut ties and ensure that, politically, they ‘sleep with the fishes’. Trump’s lack of loyalty truly has no bounds.

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Opinion // 2020 / Donald Trump / Elections / Georgia / Republican Party