“Dems in Disarray” as the GOP Fractures over Trump

When I wrote this post, laying out what I perceived to be the urgent need to cure the GOP of the spell Trump has them under, I intended to premise the solution — the means by which Dems and others could encourage such a break — on the political calculus of those Republicans who’ve enabled him for four years. A sufficient number of Republicans need to want to break that spell.

Given how events of the last few days are beginning to fracture GOP unity (the “Dems in disarray” in the title is a sarcastic reference to how commentators always portray things in the worst light for democrats), I thought I’d lay out that premise in a stand-alone post.

Yesterday, even before the Georgia results were in, WaPo chronicled how Trump’s push for an unconstitutional challenge to the election today has splintered GOP unity.

President Trump is effectively sabotaging the Republican Party on his way out of office, obsessed with overturning his election loss and nursing pangs of betrayal from allies whom he had expected to bend the instruments of democracy to his will.

Trump has created a divide in his party as fundamental and impassioned as any during his four years as president, with lawmakers forced to choose between certifying the results of an election decided by their constituents or appeasing the president in an all-but-certain-to-fail crusade to keep him in power by subverting the vote.


Trump’s intensifying drive to overturn the election results has deepened a GOP divide on Capitol Hill. McConnell last month urged Republican senators not to object to the electoral college vote certification in Wednesday’s joint session. But now that 13 have said they would, the leader has stepped back from any significant effort to tamp down the brewing rebellion. He is not whipping votes and has not spoken to Trump in weeks.

In conversations with other Senate Republicans, McConnell has stressed that their decision now will be a matter of conscience and that each senator should vote the way he or she has to vote, according to two senior GOP officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay the majority leader’s private posture.

Some Republican senators have expressed concerns that voting to certify — and against Trump — would open them up to a primary challenge from the right, while others worry that voting to object would make them vulnerable in a general election, a person familiar with the deliberations said.

“I think it is revealing that there is not a single senator who is arguing that the election was stolen from President Trump,” said Josh Holmes, an outside adviser to McConnell. “The divide in the party is whether it’s appropriate to pull the pin on an electoral college grenade, hoping that there are enough responsible people standing around who can shove it back in before they detonate American democracy.”

Then, at a time when a huge proportion of House Republicans and a shameful number of Senators were on the record supporting Trump’s arson attempt, Democrats appear to have pulled out both Senate seats in Georgia. While the corruption of and racist attacks from both Republicans hurt their own chances — especially a Kelly Loeffler attack on Raphael Warnock’s sermons, a direct attack on Black faith — there’s good reason to blame Trump.

With some exceptions for David Perdue, Democrats improved their performance county by county based on lower relative turnout from Republicans. Trump might like to claim that turnout fall-off is due to him not being on the ballot, but it’ll be easy for Republicans to argue, with reason, that it’s just as likely that Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the vote led people to stay home. All the more so given that the county where he held a rally the other night, underperformed turnout in the rest of the state.

So even if it weren’t true, it’d be in the self-interest of career Republicans to blame all this on Trump, which is beginning even before the race is formally called for Jon Ossoff.

“Trump is the cause of this, lock, stock and barrel,” said one Republican strategist. “But when you’re relying on someone to win you a Senate race that also lost statewide eight weeks prior, you’re not in a position of strength.”

The immediate recrimination is emblematic of the complicated GOP dynamics that have emerged after Trump’s loss in the November election. Fissures are forming as Republicans decide whether it’s useful to cling to Trump — even as he tries to subvert an election — or to distance themselves. And if the Georgia races are any indication, it appears Republicans are willing to turn on Trump if he can’t reliably turn out the vote for candidates in the months and years ahead.

When asked why Republicans didn’t prevail on Tuesday, a senior Senate Republican aide simply said: “Donald J. Trump.”

Importantly, there were already a number of Republicans who would have liked to turn on Trump if he didn’t have the power to make them regret that (and I expect we’ll hear stories of the means by which Trump commanded such unthinking loyalty in the days ahead). With Republicans out of power in DC, that’s all the more true. Republicans will undoubtedly try to limit the number of victories Biden enjoys, but they will have fewer means to do so going forward.

And Trump’s attempted coup is only going to exacerbate that. Since most Republicans committed to a position before the Georgia results — a decision Trump forced on a number of people, including Loeffler and Perdue, to their potential disadvantage — it will solidify pre-existing fracture lines. Yes, Republicans will blame Trump. But Republicans in Congress will also blame each other, particularly in the Senate.

All that creates a very different landscape in DC, if Biden and Democrats in Congress can exploit it. Some fraction of Republicans in Congress will have an incentive to burn Trump to the ground.

Update: This profile of what a dog-shit choice Trump has given Republicans today focuses on something I’ve been thinking a lot about: Michael Cohen’s warning to Republicans in his OGR testimony about how badly things were going to work out for them.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and fixer, whose fealty landed him in prison, feels like he’s watching a reprise of his own demise.

“I warned them,” he told me.

“I warned Mark Meadows at my oversight hearing. I warned the Jim Jordans,” he said, referring to his congressional testimony from less than two years ago as well as Trump’s current chief of staff and other notably pro-Trump GOP House members. His message: “I know what you’re doing. I know the Trump game plan, because I wrote it, and it didn’t work out for me. And it’s not going to work out for you.”

“Donald Trump,” he said, “will push people to the brink, and unless they want to end up disbarred and imprisoned and financially ruined, like what Trump did to me, they better open their eyes.”


“Each of the Republicans that have signed on to Trump’s chaos are not doing it out of loyalty to Trump,” Cohen said. “They’re not doing it because they even believe in what Trump is doing. They’re doing it because they fear his Twitter wrath and believe that the supporters, the base of Trump supporters, will vote against them in any upcoming election for not siding with Trump. This is more about their survival than anything else. And that’s sad and pathetic.”

Not only will Cohen’s warnings of the downsides of coddling Trump be prescient in some foreseeable cases, but as Trump loses the power of the Presidency, the upside for making his loyalty oaths will have diminishing value. If something tarnishes Trump’s brand significantly (in my first post, I suggested financial setbacks and state prosecutions could do that), the value of allegiance to Trump could go south precipitously.

And that would have the effect of making these public oaths of loyalty backfire.

Update: Fixed spelling of Perdue’s last name.

81 replies
  1. BobCon says:

    “Dems in disarray” is not only a symptom of the press always looking down on the Democrats, it’s a symptom of how they lazily go back to the same boring, unilluminating tropes over and over again.

    Likewise for the conflation of all Republicans with the Trump base. They stupidly looked at the ideological similarities — Mitch McConnell has no more interest in civil rights or the environment than Trump — and failed to understand the other dynamics at work. Trump’s monomania has always been a problem, and now that he is losing a major chunk of his power, the GOP is entering a new stage where they neither have a strongman to unite them by force nor a bridge builder who can bring them together with negotiations and compromise.

    The strongman may well reemerge, but there is no guarantee he will have Trump’s ability to connect with casual voters. It’s a much trickier thing than the press wants to believe.

    • MrChaz says:

      I wish you were right, but I don’t see it as all that hard to incite a mob if an ignorant, misogynistic, racist, delusional, narcissistic bag of suet can do it. Of course the media pretending that tRump isn’t any of those thing is de rigueur for success.

  2. Alan Charbonneau says:

    Not a big fan of Cohen, but his statement “… that’s sad and pathetic.” rings true.

    • ernesto1581 says:

      any thoughts about why, given Terwilliger’s remarks as he is leaving SDVA re: uncertainty about Biden admin’s commitment to the case?

  3. PeterS says:

    It seems to me that a large part of the GOP, and perhaps the media, is misreading the depth of belief amongst supporters that the election was stolen.

    Senior GOP figures don’t actually believe that Trump won and are just cynically signing up to a Trump loyalty test. They looked at the polls saying 70 to 80% of Trump supporters believe he won, and took that figure seriously. 

    Perhaps those Trump supporters are also just signing on to a loyalty test, albeit not so cynically. I mean, what does anyone expect them to do, NOT sign on?

    (I accept of course that some fraction of the supporters do sincerely believe the election was stolen – the radicalised ones).

  4. dude says:

    A little off-topic, but: what would happen if Mike Pence just calls in sick today and refuses to participate in the tally of the electoral college?

    • Chris.EL says:

      Ditto; that’s my take on Pence — aka Mr. Water Bottle on the floor (that’s always where I put my drinks) — no better way to show how much Trump has beat Pence down.

      Only successful play Pence has is to avoid the spectacle.
      Does anyone have that draft letter Trump penned at first anticipating firing Comey? I’d like to read the spittling words Trump wrote on paper…
      Too funny for words; no, Mr. Trump you can’t come here to play golf, stay home — there’s a worldwide pandemic, ya know?

      Hoooorayyy for world women heads of state with guts that stand up for their constituents!!!!!
      I avoided the *B* word…
      and it *does not* rhyme with twitch.

  5. Peterr says:

    Missouri is going to be a very interesting place to watch the GOP deal with this. Josh Hawley, 2024 wannabe nominee is going all in on wooing the Forever Trumpers, while Roy Blunt is ready to leave Trump behind. Roy epitomizes the “hold my nose and get all we can in four years” and he’s ready to move on.

    Blunt, the #3 in GOP senate leadership, is up for reelection in 2022. There are various ultraconservative GOPers around the state who’d love to take him on in a primary, if they thought they could win. We shall see what happens.

    Meanwhile, watch Missouri-based GOP political consultant and ugly hatchetman Jeff Roe. If Jeff gets behind a challenger to Blunt, it will be very ugly indeed.

    • BroD says:

      “If Jeff gets behind a challenger to Blunt, it will be very ugly indeed.”
      That would be such a shame.

  6. GKJames says:

    Aren’t Republicans in Congress playing to the 73 million? Presumably, they’re looking at polls in their district or state and calculating — based on current sentiment that’s very much real — that continuing to genuflect to Trump is the lesser risk.

    • PeterS says:

      I’m no GOP strategist(!), but I guess there’s a position which is very good for not getting primaried but very bad for winning an election.

      • GKJames says:

        You may be right. But, with respect to the latter (“very bad for winning an election”), am not sure there’s evidence of that. When, after 4 years, 73 million say, Yup, we want more of that, it’s not obvious to me that nihilism is no longer a danger. Trump lost because of the extraordinary turn-out by Democrats in crucial states. Can that level of engagement be sustained when he’s no longer on the scene (in the 2022 mid-terms, in particular)?

    • BobCon says:

      One thing they fear is that it’s not 73 million — it’s 33 million plus 18 million plus 12 million plus 10 million.

      Without a President Trump in the picture, or even a private citizen Trump with an identifiable agenda, GOP candidates are worried genuflecting to Trump isn’t enough.

  7. notyouraveragenormal says:

    I agree with the grenade analogy. The Josh Hawleys of the world remind me of Boris Johnson’s decision to campaign for Brexit. Once the referendum was over, you could visibly see he had not expected, nor intended, the Leave campaign to win and that he would actually be responsible for implementing that policy position. Instead, he thought Remain would win and then he could swoop into the premiership on the wings of the (significant) Brexit caucus in the Tory party. Same with these Repub congressmen – they’re relying on others’ sanity to make their political move, betting that their view won’t prevail. Sad brinkmanship.

  8. Peterr says:

    One other thing. Suppose Hawley and Cruz run for the 2024 GOP nomination, and one of them gets it. What’s it going to be like for them to campaign in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, or Arizona? The ads write themselves: “This guy worked hard to eliminate your voice in the 2020 election. Why the hell would you vote for him today?”

    • drouse says:

      Leave it to Rudy to come up with truly bizarre ideas. Trial by combat? With a guy who can’t walk a quarter mile without keeling over.

  9. John Paul Jones says:

    Slightly OT but it just occurred to me (yes, I’m slow) that many Republicans might welcome continued investigations of the Trump crew as a way of de-legitimizing him, and reducing his power within the Republican party, especially if the investigations focus on his business. The Q-crowd of course won’t be swayed, but I suspect many ordinary Republicans working at the county level could use it as a way to disengage from the Trump era. Call me a utopian…..

    • BroD says:

      You’re utopian. It’s possible if not probable. They’d want Democrats to drag them away from Trump so they could make ineffectual noises of protest, though.

      • BobCon says:

        We don’t know how this plays out.

        It is possible that one of the legacies of Trump is universal trashing of the “Reagan Rule” which smothered intraparty disputes, and that may include Republicans who see a divided primary and may see a 28% share of the GOP that wants to move away as an opportunity against a split field of die hards.

        One of the keys of Trump’s GOP primary victory in 2016 was being seen as the one candidate in a field of Rubio and Cruz and whoever else who wasn’t afraid of poking a hornet’s nest. Unapologetically going after Trump may, possibly, be a better path for taking on his mantle than being a suck up.

  10. PeterS says:

    Waking up this morning Marco Rubio must have felt glad he kept his own counsel on the election challenge. Rubio is a worm but Cruz is a snake.

    • ducktree says:

      Since I’ve been making campaign donations to Harrison, Warnock and Ossoff (all the way from California), I’ve been getting solicitations (via text) from some Republican campaigns as well. This morning a solicitation came in from Ted Cruz’s campaign: my reply was “Drop Dead Rafael!”

  11. Epicurus says:

    From MW above: “If something tarnishes Trump’s brand significantly (in my first post, I suggested financial setbacks and state prosecutions could do that), the value of allegiance to Trump could go south precipitously.” The issue isn’t and never has been Trump per se. The issue is that Trump represents how many people feel and believe, a most powerful combination. His effect can fade from the scene (doubtful given the central place of personal media in our lives now) but even if his effect does fade (most likely due to debilitating illness, like his father’s) there will be another to take his place leveraging off of those deeply held feelings and beliefs. It is the way politicians get elected. Many are already auditioning for his role. I am not so prescient as to know or to suggest how to perfect the union in the utopian sense. I just know we are self-conditioned to the current state of affairs and conditioning ourselves more and more each day.

  12. Terry Mroczek says:

    With respect to breaking “a spell”, there is a bit more to the social-psychological process. For those who have simply gone along with Trump, there really is no spell, so when their ability to rationalize their behavior is unable to justify their behavior, they will break loose. For those who are actually supportive of Trump, the only way that I’ve seen work is unrelenting truth. Unfortunately, there is a profitable cabal on the right that promote Trump’s lies that make it difficult to impossible to air the truth in a way that will actually influence the diehards. My question for the lawyers on this blog is this: I’ve concluded that people make the best decisions when they use facts to inform their decisions. This is reflected in our justice system, is it not? I’ve also concluded that when falsehoods are employed to influence people, it is no longer influence, it is manipulation and when manipulation is used, it takes away choice from people. Whoever is doing the manipulating is using approaches that point people toward a conclusion that is pre-decided. Therefore, why do we allow lies and falsehoods in our politics when it clearly takes choice away from people? Why can’t political public figures sue for defamation when people and entities promote verifiable falsehoods about them? It seems to me that it would help our democracy greatly to disincentivize those entities who profit from generating and promoting lies.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Who is this “we” whom you cite as “allow[ing] lies and falsehoods”? It seems to me that our First Amendment is the culprit you seek; an argument premised on improving “choice” by selecting truth becomes antithetical to American precedent.

      • Terry Mroczek says:

        Right now, the information generated is an increasing rate and there are entities (individuals and corporations) who are profiting from generating and promoting falsehoods in the political ecosystem. I believe it is dangerous and supportive of authoritarian tendencies. However, we have the freedom of speech that allows people to say whatever they want. We have freedom of press that allows the press to print whatever they want. But, I can’t believe that the writers of our Constitution thought it was productive to democracy to promote falsehoods. I just can’t wrap my head around that. Diversity of ideas, yes. Multiple ideas, yes. Many sources, yes. Many perspectives, yes. Opposing viewpoint, yes. All of that makes for richer solutions/decisions and more acceptance by people who had a voice. But that is not what I’m seeing.

      • Terry Mroczek says:

        The “we” I am referring to is America. When I say “allow”, right now, the way to counter lies is to speak the truth and yes (to Ginerva), the First Amendment may be one of the culprits but, another is human nature – the preference for salacious over simple, our tendency to believe things that are repeated rather than supported, the preference for the first argument presented to us and the passion with which it is presented; all of those and more make it difficult to follow up with the truth after a falsehood has become lodged in brains using those tactics. When we you have profit-gaining entities who are spinning out falsehoods, the truth is buried. I’m not thinking that “selecting” the truth is solution. But, we do have the means to obtain justice and part of that is getting to truth because people are put under oath. I don’t think the courts could obtain justice if we didn’t require people to tell the truth and impose penalties if they didn’t. It is the same concept – if we, the voters (like a jury) are fed untruths presented as truth with no penalty for those doing the feeding, how could we ever render a decision (judgment) that is fair?

  13. punaise says:

    I know bmaz is not a fan, but I like the symbolism of announcing Merrill Garland for AG on the same day McConnell gets stripped of his power.

  14. Molly Pitcher says:

    According to the Daily Beast/Politico : “Joe Biden will select Merrick Garland, a judge on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and a one-time Supreme Court candidate, to be his attorney general, The Daily Beast can confirm. The news was first reported by Politico.”

  15. jaango says:

    I am currently writing a missive for military vets and it delivers the notional that ‘”segundas” or second hand stores that should be amenable to the ‘needs’ that are critical components to every day living. As such, ‘interviewing’ owners of these segundas has been quite beneficial to those that are living on a presumptive fixed budget.

    And in the course of doing so, I came to realize that the “segundas” of public information is also just another critical component for daily living. As such, the idea of crafting a “segunda” of the digital and non-digital realm of purveyors of propaganda and in the daily projection of a wealth of political fiction ingrained, is ours to craft and accomplished in a manner that challenges the Big Boys of Media, or as some would characterize as Facebook, among the many easily accessed business entities.

    So, permit me to address the “segunda” of a media outlet, such as the Municipal-Owned Internet News Outlets that would be reflected in the 40 or 50 urban municipalities.

    Therefore, if you’re ‘hooked’ on progressive politics that customizes the Municipal-Owned Internet News Network, then, we both are on the same page, and if not, we must arrive at the same point and where we recognize that the Democrats, writ large, become advocates. And if not, the ‘new’ Biden Administration, will not effectively address this ample opportunity to further move our democracy forward. However, if the Biden Administration wants to effectively challenge the Republicans, writ large, Biden needs only to establish his Weekly Saturday Morning’s Bloggers Conference, and if not accomplished in the next several weeks, the Democrats, writ large, will be positing their self-same propaganda, albeit, in another form and function, and which demonstrates that today’s politics is inherent in keeping the Swamp fully employed.

    • Rayne says:

      I also think the publicly-access television stations need to be incorporated into this as another segunda — if video content is provided for the internet, why not for broadcast and cable as well, leaving no stone unturned?

      • timbo says:

        Yes, we need to go back to the public comment time on the TV stations. Equal access and some parity of voice returned to the average person.

  16. CaliLawyer says:

    If Manchin were smart, he’d vote to eliminate the filibuster – most Americans barely know what it is, and he’d have more influence without it, not less. I don’t think he’ll do that, though. I expect him to grandstand on opposing it.

  17. Molly Pitcher says:

    I never thought I would see the day that McConnell would turn against Trump. HE is speaking against the seditionists and for the Constitution. I am floored.

    However hypocritical he is being, he actually looks shaken.

  18. punaise says:

    McConnell actually speaking some sense on the floor right now. …until he slunk back into bothsiderism.

  19. John Langston says:

    I’m watching McConnell’s speech now in the Senate. I think he’s about to break down and cry. It looks like the blood is draining out of his body. I really liked the part where railed against partisan tribalism.

    This guy always wanted to be the majority leader whose sole purpose was short circuiting a Democratic president. He knew his own party had no agenda to lead the govt. Trump screwed up his plan and proved his party had no agenda to lead the govt. Now with Georgia, Moscow Mitch has lost it all.

    • MB says:

      Sometime needs to create the definitive timeline as to exactly when each of absolutely loyal Trump sycophants recanted their sycophancy in order to save their own asses. Mike Pence being a very late entry to that group.

      Meanwhile the Trump mob outside the capitol building have attempted to storm the building, so far without success. We’ll see how this develops throughout the day. There’s no quit with these fanatics.

  20. madwand says:

    A few heads being broken by Capital Police as crowds attempt to break in to Capital. One building evacuated, this is ongoing.

  21. harpie says:

    There is a RIOT going on at the Capitol.

    I’m not yet seeing low-flying military helicopters, less than lethal rounds fired, or clouds of pepper spray, etc.

  22. Savage Librarian says:

    This is an interesting proposal. I’m wondering what others think:

    “Who’s Afraid of Mitch McConnell?”
    “The Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate. To disarm Mitch, all MVP Kamala Harris has to do is follow the Constitution” – 12/15/20, Lisa Marie Kerr

    “Harris should exercise her constitutionally-guaranteed role as the Senate’s president, and preside over the Senate as vice presidents routinely did until 1937. If the Democrats fail to take back the Senate majority, this role will be crucial to the nation’s survival. But even if both Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock formally win and take their seats, the excess power afforded by tradition–not law or rule–to the majority leader is irrevocably contaminated by Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell’s abuse and must be reclaimed on behalf of the American people.”

    “In short, the Senate’s historic role as “world’s greatest deliberative body” requires that open deliberation take place as described in the Constitution—not behind closed doors, and certainly not inside the head of one man elected by 1.2 million voters in the 26th most populous state in the Union. Does our Vice President have a duty to take back presiding power on behalf of the American people? I argue that she does…”


    • Fran of the North says:

      Presiding over the U.S. Senate on a daily basis would be one of the more important duties for Vice-President Harris. She might even enforce some discipline on the Repub-uffians.

  23. John Langston says:

    I see the mob on the Capitol steps. Looks like “white privilege” to me. I can’t remember any protest for civil rights or against the war that ever was allowed on the Capitol. Usually it’s a big deal if a protest breaches a barrier.

    Anyway, Cruz and Scalise might as well join them. They’ve been trying to burn down the Capitol inside the building, they might as well try it from the outside. Heck, maybe the “mob” will make ol’ Ted the new president now. I’m sure Ted could make a “constitutional” case for it, somewhere behind Article 20 and the 37th Amendment.

    Where is Bill Barr and the armed forces now that we need them? Anyone holding bible? (upside down)

    • PeterS says:

      Did Cruz ask Trump if he’d respect the verdict of the emergency election commission before he proposed such a ridiculous thing? Nah, didn’t think so.

    • madwand says:

      They are inside the Capital Building with people sheltering in place behind locked doors, police inside doing nothing, its a loss of control, or abrogation. Hard to see how this gets corrected without intervention. Capital Police have lost control.

      • John Langston says:

        They should’ve turned the sprinklers on.

        Of course, the mob would catch pneumonia and then claim police brutality.

  24. VinnieGambone says:

    And what tangible benefits do the blind loyalist get anyway?
    When was the first infrastructure week anyway? Went good, right ?

  25. harpie says:

    TODAY in Washington DC

    1] 2:20 PM · Jan 6, 2021 [via Charles Pierce] https://twitter.com/jazmineulloa/status/1346899454536912897 [Boston Globe]

    Capitol is on lockdown as protesters storm front entrance of the Capitol. They are banging on the door. They have broken the glass window. [VIDEO]

    2] 2:23 PM · Jan 6, 2021

    A dense group of protestors has shattered the windows of the Capitol. We can hear roaring chants of “USA” outside. [VIDEO]

    3] 2:24 PM · Jan 6, 2021 [The President of the United States]

    Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!
    [Twitter: This claim about election fraud is disputed]

  26. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Good news at the end of the day: financial outlets reporting that ‘business leaders’ are so disgusted with the Hawley and Cruz antics, which incited the mob, that they are actually making noises about refusing to donate to future campaigns.
    The shock and outrage in the business press is quite the eyebrow raiser.

    No word yet about their views on McConnell, who IMVHO lies at the root of all this; after all, Trump could never have been in office if Mitch has listened to the FBI and the CIA.

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