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Republicans Would Back a Stinkbug If It Made the Base Wave Their Flags

Signing on with a guy who has a whole forest of Damoclesian swords festooned above his head sounds like a bad bet.

Supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump await his return to Florida along the route leading to his Mar-a-Lago estate on January 20, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Sixteen minutes. That’s how long it took for House Republicans to broom Rep. Liz Cheney out of her leadership position. A pizza takes more time, but Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his merry band of Trumpian thralls don’t have a second to waste.

They seek to seize tomorrow, which, for them, means completely rewriting yesterday — pretending that Donald Trump handily won the 2020 election, but was dispossessed by a rash of election fraud currently being remedied in various states with new laws. (Those laws, of course, are a monumental, racist threat to voting rights.) Oh, and that murderous riot at the Capitol in January? Nothing more than “a normal tourist visit,” according to GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde’s Wednesday explanation. There’s really no fixing that.

I have no truck with those trying to paint Liz Cheney as some kind of valiant hero. This is her fudge, and now she has to cook it. Whatever this party is today, it has Cheney and her repugnant father’s fingerprints all over it.

Cheney is in this soup because she refused to parrot the ersatz “We Wuz Robbed” plank of the Republican Party platform, which is currently the only plank in that platform, while her Trump-loving replacement — Rep. Elise Stefanik — saw the inside track afforded by total Trump loyalty and pounced on it. Just like that, Cheney is out of there like her chair was some James Bond ejector seat … which makes you wonder how comfy Stefanik will be once she sits down in the same spot. Things happen damn fast in today’s GOP, like 16 minutes fast.

The man currently enjoying a luxurious tongue bath from almost every elected Republican wasted no time sending an arc of spittle into Cheney’s open political grave. “Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being,” said Trump (not by way of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter). “I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party. She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country.”

Cheney, for her part, let it be known to all and sundry that she intends to be a burr under Trump’s saddle for as long as the people of Wyoming will have her, and perhaps beyond. There are already mutterings of a possible presidential run by Cheney in ’24. She has carved herself out a nifty little national platform, and appears un-shy about smoking it down to the filter.

“I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President’s crusade to undermine our democracy,” she vowed the night before her et tu, Brute moment on the House floor. If Cheney brings the same energy to this new project that she did to being a terrible right-wing mouthpiece for ignorance and hate, things could get wild at flank speed.

While only a handful of current Republican congresspeople have opted to stand with Cheney, she is not alone in the world. “More than 100 Republicans, including some former elected officials, are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to form a third party if the Republican Party does not make certain changes,” according to The New York Times.

A fractured GOP, a conservative third party with Cheney as its Joan of Arc leader, could make life uniquely aggravating for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his plans to retake the chamber next year. That alone is worth the price of admission.

The news media has been a day, a night and a day unspooling various elements of this latest Republican fiasco, and I am happy to leave them to it. Let them ponder the eternal question: Is this mere cowardice on the part of the GOP, a continuing dread of Trump’s broiling base? Or has a majority of that party seen the demographic numbers, encompassed the actual results of the 2020 election, choked down the reality of what actually damn happened in Georgia, and decided that a racist hard-right totalitarian lurch under Trump is the only way the party survives?

That’s a D.C. parlor game they’ll be playing until the stars swallow the moon, and they can have it. My thing is this: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani just had his home and offices raided by federal authorities, all of his phones confiscated and a big WE ARE WATCHING YOU sign draped around his neck. Giuliani has cut staff, tried unsuccessfully to pry owed legal fees out of his sole client and hired Harvey Weinstein’s defense team to represent him. One does not do such things when the sun is shining bright, and Trump would have to be exceptionally dense to miss the obvious threat to himself.

“State prosecutors in Manhattan investigating former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization have subpoenaed the personal bank records of the company’s chief financial officer and are questioning gifts he and his family received from Mr. Trump,” reports the Times. “In recent weeks, the prosecutors have trained their focus on the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, in what appears to be a determined effort to gain his cooperation. Mr. Weisselberg, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, has overseen the Trump Organization’s finances for decades and may hold the key to any possible criminal case in New York against the former president and his family business.”

Plainly put: If Weisselberg starts dancing to the prosecutor’s tune, all that will be left to do is for someone to bring a mop to swab up the aftermath.

Even the folks down by Trump’s mini-Elba have begun to smell blood on the fetid Florida breeze. According to Politico, Palm Beach law enforcement officials are making contingency plans in the event Trump is indicted while residing at Mar-a-Lago. If he is, he will have to be extradited to New York, and that’s where the funky music starts. Florida law allows the governor to “intervene” in an extradition proceeding, and Ron DeSantis is a known devotee of the 45th president.

This is worth watching, because Trump’s reported plan is to close up shop and haul stakes for Bedminster once the Florida heat really kicks in. New Jersey has a similar extradition intervention statute on the books, but Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy would sell MetLife stadium to Connecticut before standing in the way of Trump and New York justice. Will Trump stay in Florida and sweat it out under the protective wing of DeSantis, or will he risk a summer on the Jersey shore? Keep an eye on the thermometer, and we shall see.

All the questions about Republican motives are, for the most part, largely irrelevant. They did this, period. They have cast their bread upon Trump’s waters, and now they get to wait and see what happens next with the rest of us.

Personally speaking, signing on with a guy who has a whole forest of Damoclesian swords festooned above his head sounds like a really bad bet. Then again, these are the nimrods who thought elevating Sarah Palin to national prominence was a bully idea. These people would back a stinkbug if it made the base wave their flags, but that does not make it a smart idea.

UPDATE 5/14/2021: “This week [Trump] decamped from his base in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, to spend the summer at his New Jersey golf club, taking him closer to donors.” — Times of London

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