After five years of a tenuous and often humiliating alliance between Donald Trump and the Republican Party, all bets are off. A civil war is on, featuring the former president and his most devoted followers on one side and, on the other side, conservatives who are now rediscovering their spines and finding that their bargain with Trump was a Faustian one.
The first major revolt came from Sen. Mitch McConnell, who blamed Trump for inciting the Capitol storming after the president directed the armed mob he invited to Washington to head to the Capitol and “stop the steal.” Now, Karl Rove has his back, penning a Wall Street Journal op-ed dissecting the absurdity of Trump’s histrionic tirade over the Senate minority leader.
“Despite possessing all the powers of incumbency and leading a united GOP, Mr. Trump lost the presidency,” Rove writes after thoroughly disproving Trump’s claim that it was McConnell, not him, who cost Republicans control of the Senate. “If he returned for another White House contest, leading a divided party at war with itself and out of power, he’d be wiped out. Mr. Trump should now be focused not on settling scores, but on healing, uniting and expanding the GOP. Politics is about addition, not subtraction. So next time his crackerjack wordsmiths suggest a thermonuclear attack on other Republicans, Mr. Trump ought to let the one-day story that provoked them go away on its own.”
In the careful parlance of Rove and his ilk, this is a declaration of war — one that Republicans on the fence would be wise to heed.
Rove is the guy whom Trump’s campaign begged for a crash course in electoral politics after securing the 2016 presidential nomination. In their meeting, Trump said he could win California, New York, and Oregon, states that he went on to lose by 30 points, 22 points, and 11 points, respectively. It was Rove who pointed out that Trump’s only real path to beating Hillary Clinton was through breaking the Blue Wall in the Rust Belt. It was Rove who said Mike Pence would be the running mate to help him do it.
“I think your battlegrounds are going to be between Pennsylvania and Iowa, and if you’re going to break the Blue Wall, you need someone with Midwestern sensibilities and someone who has evangelical appeal,” Rove said before recommending Pence, according to reporting by Tim Alberta.
Trump listened to Rove, and it worked. Later, when Trump faced the beloved vice president, perceived as much more trustworthy than either himself or Hillary Clinton, he lost the White House. When he spent two months lying that the election had been rigged, he cost Republicans the Senate.
The moral case against a man loyal to nothing and no one in his entire life is obvious enough. But Rove and McConnell are cold, calculating political operators. They see which way the wind is blowing, and any conservative with hopes of stopping the Left would be wise to take note and follow suit.
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