Thursday, May 13, 2021

It's too soon for partisan gloating -- May 13, 2021 column


Democrats could not be happier House Republicans booted Liz Cheney from her leadership role for daring to tell the truth about the 2020 election and Donald Trump.

“Republican Party = Party of Trump,” the Democratic National Committee proclaims.

Republicans, meanwhile, celebrate “Biden’s gas shortage” and claim he is creating another “Jimmy Carter economy.”

“BIDEN UNDER SIEGE,” Fox News shouted in an online headline over another that read: “White House staggered by multiple crises from gas shortage to overseas conflict and migrant surge.”

We’re living in a time of intense partisan schadenfreude, the German word for taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. Each political party is gloating over the other’s troubles.

That may be fun now, but who will be joyful after next year’s midterm elections?

Historically, the party that occupies the White House loses congressional seats at the midterm, and Republicans need to pick up only five seats to retake the House. In the Senate, the 50-50 split means one Senate race could shift control back to Republicans.

Republicans dumped Cheney as No. 3 in the party leadership to demonstrate their allegiance to Trump. They are making a risky bet that the former president will motivate more GOP voters than he does Democrats and independents to vote against his favorite candidates.  

Cheney was one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Republicans want her to go away quietly but she plans to run for re-election in Wyoming and remain a vocal critic of the Trumpy GOP.

“I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office,” Cheney told reporters.

Unfortunately, hers is likely to be a lonely path. There simply are fewer and fewer Republicans with the guts to buck Trump. Her voice may be drowned out by the Republican chorus claiming President Joe Biden is corrupt and that he and his “radical socialists” are bent on ruining the country.

But will voters buy the purely negative GOP message? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell implicitly acknowledges Republicans have no policy agenda.

“One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” said McConnell, who casts the midterm elections as a referendum on Biden.

Democrats hope voters will credit their party and Biden with the lessening of the COVID-19 pandemic, a return to nearly normal life and a robust economy and will again reject Trump and his minions.

But those Democrats who are gloating about the GOP’s embrace of Trump should remember their joy at his come-from-nowhere success as a presidential candidate during the 2016 primary season.

At the time, many Democrats thought Hillary Clinton would more easily beat Trump than Jeb Bush or almost any of the 16 other Republican presidential hopefuls. Trump, of course, lost the popular vote but triumphed in the Electoral College.

Two years after his surprising victory, there was a backlash. Republicans lost 42 House seats in the 2018 midterm elections.

The 2022 midterms will be the first election after the census and the redrawing of congressional maps, many by Republican-controlled state legislatures, which can stack the deck in their favor.

In addition, many Republican state legislatures have passed more restrictive voting laws supposedly to fix problems in the last election. There still is no evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities, and the changes will make it harder for some to vote.

Republicans, though, seem to want it both ways. “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that’s all over with,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Wednesday after a meeting with Biden in the Oval Office.

Hardly. Just a day earlier, Trump again said in a statement the last election was “rigged and stolen from us.”

Meanwhile, Trump has moved to New Jersey for the summer and is expected to attend a fundraising event May 22 for the Make America Great Again Action super PAC. The reception and dinner will be at his Bedminster golf club, where Politico reported, “The minimum price for entry is $250,000.”

Democrats should realize if Republicans regain control of the House or Senate next year, Trump could be the one gloating as he launches another bid for the White House.

©2021 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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