Donald Trump’s anti-election campaign is hopeless. Many Republicans see it that way. But hardly anyone protests against the loser. Why not?
If you’re wondering how long Republicans want to see Donald Trump get embroiled in hopeless battles against the election, Mitch McConnell had a disturbing date on Tuesday.
“Until the Electoral College elects,” said McConnell, “any candidate has the option of legal action.” The Electoral College, where state voters formally elect the president, will do so on Dec. 14. Plenty of time for angry Trump tweets in capital letters.
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McConnell is not just anyone, he is one of the most powerful and above all strategic Republicans, the majority leader in the important Senate. So why is he giving Trump so much foolish freedom? Why do most other Republicans still hold on to Trump, even though few believe he can really win?
Now. Because they believe it will benefit them.
Scandalous and dangerous
The strategy of leading Republicans in dealing with Trump was perhaps best seen on Tuesday in a particularly blatant example: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Contrary to what his office suggests, Pompeo rarely attracts attention due to his diplomatic stance. And so he delivered a quote that immediately spread on social networks.
When asked about his preparations for a transition to the Biden administration, he replied, “The transition to a second term in the Trump administration will be smooth.” Naturally unheard of and dangerous. It is not difficult to interpret this as an announcement of a coup d’état. Even if Pompeo smiled briefly afterwards. At least he doesn’t care what he meant.
But Pompeo said a few more things, and some things he didn’t say on purpose. So he did not answer the question whether he really believed that there was massive electoral fraud. Pompeo stressed that a legal battle is now underway, but the world can rest assured that the State Department is now also “successful with the president, who will be in office on January 20”. And he said, “I’ve made a transition myself. And I’ve been on the other side. I’m confident.” In other words, on the side that came into office at that time.
The extraordinary becomes normal
Many Republicans are currently trying to avoid two things: turn Trump and his supporters against them – and fully commit to Trump’s line. In this way they remain as flexible as possible. To do that, they have to portray the very special as perfectly normal. There are several shades of this attempt. In the thunderous Pompeo version and in the quiet McConnell version. He said on Tuesday that there was “no cause for alarm”. The rule of law continues.
But where is it all going? “He [Trump] rippled over the weekend, “the Washington Post quoted an anonymous Republican official.” It’s no like planning to stop Joe Biden from taking power on January 20th. Trump is now tweeting about lawsuits that then fail, then he will tweet about how his election was stolen – and eventually leave. “What harm is it that he’s having a little fun now?”
Let him go.
It makes sense for Republicans who don’t care about the damage Trump is doing by challenging a fundamental principle of democracy.
Donald Trump dominates the Republican party, and some believe it will continue after the defeat. He is reportedly toying with the idea of re-running for the next election in 2024. Even if he doesn’t, many see him as the kingmaker. And nobody wants to mess with that.
Ultimately, the Republicans are in control of how dependent they make themselves on Trump. Only 71 million people voted for the president in these elections, more than we do for any Republican. Probably not all because of Trump and some even despite him. But the trailer base is big. And it’s loud, just like Trump himself.
Few disagree with Trump
There are, of course, the Republicans who oppose. But they are few and they have little to lose. Because they are already considered Trump’s opponents, such as Senators Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Or because they are retired, like the 31 ex-MPs who wrote an open letter calling on Trump to withdraw because “public confidence in the outcome of our elections is a pillar of our democracy.”
But most prominent Republicans just want to run as candidates and win elections. They believe it works better with Trump than without him.
As in Georgia, where two senate seats will be awarded in a second election. This election will determine whether the Republicans in the Senate still have a majority and thus many opportunities to block Joe Biden’s policies – or whether the Democrats also capture this chamber of Congress. Georgia also decides on Mitch McConnell’s office as the powerful majority leader.
Republicans against Republicans
Voluntary abandonment of the presidential election should not motivate Republican voters in Georgia to vote again on January 5. Participation in such run-off elections can be decisive. Republican voters in Georgia are also considered loyal Trump supporters. The anger helps the campaigners.
This also explains a somewhat absurd development there. The two Republican Senate candidates, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, called on Republican election official Brad Raffensperger to resign. He had “abandoned the people of Georgia,” they accused him with grand gestures and made the usual unfounded allegations of electoral fraud.
Election supervisor Raffensperger rejected all this and remained in office. But election campaigners were able to present themselves in an attitude of resistance to the establishment. It could be just as wild in the weeks to come until the election.
Just as Trump’s supporters love.