November 20, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Trump pits GOP against patriotism

Mitt Romney knows that's a fight the party cannot win.

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I think some Republicans are beginning to sweat. Not like Rudy Giuliani sweltered during yesterday’s loony presser. (Whether it was spray-on hair dye or mascara running down his cheeks seems to be subject to debate.) But perspiration always starts slow. The more the president denies defeat, the more some Republicans will sweat bullets.

To be clear, I have no doubt, had Joe Biden’s margin of victory been narrower, that the Republicans would have stood by while Donald Trump successfully stole the election. He has followed a predictable plan: claim voter fraud, litigate outcomes in court, and, now, get Republican state electors to declare him His Holiness, the God-Emperor of the United States. All of this will fail, but failing isn’t the point. The Republicans have demonstrated a dangerous tolerance for sedition. (That’s to be expected, I suppose, given GOP Senators acquitted Trump of treason, freeing him to commit it again.)

If most Americans start seeing the Republicans through the lens of betrayal, if they start seeing the party as a separatist movement (that’s what it is), even the milquetoastiest of Democrats, like Joe Manchin, will be forced to go to the wall.

You could say, as Edward Foley did in the Post, that democracy dies when “the losing party won’t accept defeat.” You could also say, with more accuracy and more urgency, that the losing party is killing something it no longer controls. The Republicans now have a taste for coup d’etat. Every serious citizen is right to expect them to try again.

They must first get through this period, which will probably determine which future road the Republicans take. If Trump gets out of the way, they can move forward with preparations to sandbag Biden with their reputations for love of country and loyalty to the republic intact. If the president doesn’t get out of the way, however, those preparations could, and should, unfold under a cloud of suspicion. Most people still don’t fully appreciate the depths of Trump’s sedition or the GOP’s complicity in it. The more he stays put, though, the more the press corps is going to raise public awareness.

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Each day sees word-choice getting more forceful and strident. The Post: “Trump uses power of presidency to try to overturn the election and stay in office.” Here’s the AP’s tweeted nut graf: “President Donald Trump is trying to turn America’s free and fair election into a muddled mess of misinformation, specious legal claims and baseless attacks on the underpinnings of the nation’s democracy.” These are going to hurt.

Stuart Stevens, a former GOP strategist, said: “If pressuring state legislators to throw out an election and appoint loyal electors isn’t a high crime, what is? Does the Constitution mean nothing?” Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein said: “Trump has now gone from legitimately contesting the election to illegitimately attempting to steal it, and in the process he’s undermining confidence in democracy. People are threatening election officials trying to do their jobs, and Trump is putting pressure on Republican elected officials to join his unconstitutional scheming.” Larry Sabato, a nonpartisan pollster, said: “Yep, it’s #sedition. Let’s hope the Secret Service and military leaders have a serious, detailed plan to remove all trespassers from the White House at noon on January 20.” (Fact: The Pentagon has made clear there is no plan to get involved.)

Importantly, the above are not marginal. Indeed, these are white men whose privilege, influence and status would probably insulate them from any fascist takeover. Yet here they are, rightly screaming from the ramparts. It’s not hard to imagine the press corps amplifying screams like theirs. The last thing the GOP wants is for them to be so loud they play in Peoria. If most Americans start seeing the Republicans through the lens of betrayal, if they start seeing the party as a separatist movement (that’s what it is), even the milquetoastiest of Democrats, like Joe Manchin, will be forced to go to the wall.

Then there are “moderates” like Mitt Romney. The Utah senator and former GOP presidential nominee understands his fellow Republicans are playing with fire. If the Republicans don’t hustle the president out the door, and soon, he’s going to enmesh the party in a fight with patriotism itself—a fight that Romney knows it cannot win. Bear in mind, he tacitly compared Trump to Richard Nixon in last night’s statement:

Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election. It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting President.

If Trump were more of a team player, he’d recognize he’s put the Republicans in a good place. Millions of Americans already doubt Biden won. The Republican Senate, therefore, can proceed with sabotaging his administration under the guise of God and country but also in the spirit of exacting revenge for a former president done wrong.

But Trump isn’t a team player. He’s demanding state lawmakers humiliate themselves in his name, and so far, they are obliging. He’s reaching for loonier and loonier conspiracy theories, anything to prevent leaving office. The Republicans meanwhile remain idle. If they allow Trump to pit the party against patriotism, watch out.

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    This is scary

  2. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    The GOP has been blatantly unpatriotic since Nixon subverted the Vietnam peace talks during the 1968 presidential campaign. Every Republican administration starting with him has engaged in major criminal and/or negligent activities that have grossly undermined the Republic and the rule of law.

    The “good” news with Trump is that he’s ripped off the veneer of supposed Republican loyalty and finally exposed the complete venality, criminality, and sedition that are the hallmarks of the modern GOP. Let’s remember that the cultural and political forefathers of the today’s Republicans are the Confederates who initiated the Civil War. If their political ancestors were willing to destroy the country and democracy to impose their racist and treasonous “utopia”, we should not be surprised by what modern Republicans are willing to do.

    • Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 11:24 pm

      You got it right Thornton and as I said, it’s scary. Still I think we’re going to make it. But if we don’t I guess I’ll have to move back to GA from NC or go north to VA. Of course, I remember when the Democratic Party was the only party in GA and the national Democratic Party put up with the jim crow hatefulness down there. I read somewhere that politics is all theatre. I think hypocrite is the Greek word for actor. So there you have it. But I’m gonna keep on hoping.

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