The funniest thing you’ll see online all day. *Every* Republican in the Senate and possibly every Republican in the House has expressed “extreme contempt” for Trump privately at times, I’m sure. (Probably not QAnon ally Marjorie Taylor Greene, but remember that she’s not a congresswoman yet.) Why, some of the president’s most loyal devotees lambasted him as a lowlife when they ran against him in the 2016 primaries.
His own lawyer called him an “unethical, corrupt, lying, criminal, dirtbag” in 2016, for cripes sake.
I didn’t realize that anyone in either wing of the party was unaware of how pre-Trump Republicans felt, and continue to feel, about him. But these tweets are getting a bit of buzz this morning so I must be mistaken.
The 21 GOP Senators who have privately expressed their disdain for Trump are: Portman, Alexander, Sasse, Blunt, Collins, Murkowski, Cornyn, Thune, Romney, Braun, Young, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Rubio, Grassley, Burr, Toomey, McSally, Moran, Roberts, Shelby. (2/3)
— Carl Bernstein (@carlbernstein) November 23, 2020
The charitable view of their persistent public silence about his unfitness is that speaking out wouldn’t do much good and could potentially do harm. That’s because, as we’re about to see in the cases of Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger in Georgia, crossing Trump too directly might earn you a serious primary challenge and that primary challenge is apt to come from a crank. Greene herself is from Georgia, and not only did she win her race easily, her endorsement was eagerly courted by both Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins in their Senate battle. Crankishness sells in the modern GOP. So if you’re Marco Rubio or Rick Scott or one of the other 51 members of the Senate caucus, your rationale for biting your tongue about Trump is self-serving but also plausible — namely, if you make an enemy of the president, your seat will probably end up in the hands of either a Democrat or a right-wing yahoo a la Roy Moore who has no business holding a high government position.
But by the same token, there *are* moments when Trump’s Trumpishness becomes so damaging to the country that you’re obliged to fall on the grenade even if it puts you, and your seat, at risk. We’ve reached that point as his court fight drags out aimlessly, state legislatures contemplate voiding their elections, and his lawyers set about immolating what little trust is left in American institutions by pushing conspiracy theories to explain his defeat. More Senate Republicans have begun speaking up in the last few days:
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) November 22, 2020
— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) November 22, 2020
Toomey is retiring and Murkowski’s already proved she can win a statewide election without the nomination of her party so both are insulated from Trump’s pressure tactics to a degree. More interesting is the fact that North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer, whose state is ruby red, also called on him yesterday to begin the formal transition process for Biden as the legal effort continues to play out. According to the Times, pressure on McConnell and his caucus to get Trump to back down is being brought to bear by outside forces:
Concerned that President Trump’s refusal to accept the election results is hurting the country, more than 100 chief executives plan to ask the administration on Monday to immediately acknowledge Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner and begin the transition to a new administration.
As a way of gaining leverage over the G.O.P., some of the executives have also discussed withholding campaign donations from the two Republican Senate candidates in Georgia unless party leaders agree to push for a presidential transition, according to four people who participated in a conference call Friday in which the notion was discussed…
At least one participant [in a Friday conference call], Rob Speyer, the chief executive of Tishman Speyer, suggested that some wealthy donors had already been considering withholding support, according to four people with knowledge of his comments.
Even some loyal Trumpists within the CEO class, like Blackstone chief Steve Schwarzman, are now asking Trump to give up. “I’m a fan of good process,” Schwarzman told Axios. “In my comments three days after the election, I was trying to be a voice of reason and express why it’s in the national interest to have all Americans believe the election is being resolved correctly. But the outcome is very certain today, and the country should move on.” Partly business leaders are turning against Trump because they’ve concluded the writing’s on the wall and want to ingratiate themselves to Biden as soon as possible. But I’d guess they’re also sincerely worried about instability and what it might do to their bottom lines, let alone the country, if things go much further. It’s an open question as I write this whether Michigan’s state board of canvassers, divided 2-2 among Democrats and Republicans, will certify the state’s results today despite Biden having won there by several percentage points and 150,000 votes. If Michigan Republicans make an earnest play to try to hand their electors to Trump, the cool heads that have prevailed so far in most quarters will turn hot. It’s time for McConnell, the 21 senators on Bernstein’s list, and the 31 senators who aren’t on his list but also disdain Trump privately to make their move.
Especially since, the longer the charade drags on, the more it endangers the party’s chances in the Georgia runoffs. That’s another reason why the CEOs are threatening to choke off donations — it’s a power play designed to balance the cries coming from some populists that Georgia Republicans should boycott the runoffs in protest of Biden’s “theft.” The more Senate Republicans feel obliged to pander to their base there to keep turnout high, the more they’ll indulge Trump as he continues to resist a transition. CEOs are warning them that there are constituencies on the other side of this equation that need to be pandered to as well. If Trump gives up soon, Georgia GOPers will have six weeks to come to terms with it and reconcile themselves to electing Loeffler and David Perdue as a check Biden. If Trump fights on and they don’t start to come to terms with his defeat until after the electoral college votes, that’s riskier. Sore feelings may keep voters home on January 5 in that scenario.
Here’s Bernstein on CNN this morning with something closer to a real scoop, claiming that there’s been movement behind the scenes by McConnell and the caucus within the last 24-48 hours to try to put an end to all this. We’ll see about that, especially if Michigan chokes on certification today. Exit quotation from Jake Tapper about the pretend “constitutionalists” in the GOP caucus: “Interesting to contemplate the future when GOP senators — silent now about trump literally trying to overturn the election results — in February and March [object]to President Biden overreaching on an executive order they think goes too far…”