By Jonathon Van Maren
For four years, the GOP reaped the rewards of having Donald Trump in the White House. Now, Republicans are paying the price. After two months of listening to the president insist that the 2020 elections were rigged and that the Georgia GOP was particularly corrupt, many voters listened. Enough voters, in fact, to hand the Democrats two Senate seats—and control of all three levers of power. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossof, two pro-abortion radicals, will replace Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The safety valve on Biden’s presidency is gone. Nothing stands between the Dems and court-packing, the Equality Act, and the rest of the radical Left’s transformative agenda.
Make no mistake: Trump cost us those Senate seats with his constant claims of a rigged election. Roughly half of “very conservative” Georgia voters stated that they wouldn’t vote in the runoffs due to widespread voter fraud. Since the election, Trump attacked Warnock and Ossof by name on Twitter exactly zero times, while targeting Georgia Republicans over fifty times. Trump’s assertions depressed GOP turnout, and he knew that they would—he simply cares more about his own interests than those of the party or the country. In fact, areas where Trump last campaigned had a lower turnout than the rest of the state. Sure, he told them to get out and vote. But he did so while telling them there would be no point in doing so. The damage this has done to the pro-life cause will be brutal.
As Erick Erickson put it: “The Democrats won because Republicans did not show up. Democrats turned out at rates near their general election turnout. Republicans did not…To the extent the election was stolen, the GOP stole it from itself. To the extent there was malfeasance, the President running ads on Atlanta radio this very week that the election was stolen is the malfeasance, not local boards of elections. To the extent there is misfeasance, the state GOP chair in Georgia attacking the Republican Secretary of State and lying about what happened in November is the misfeasance, not local boards of elections.” We didn’t need to lose those seats.
I understand that plenty of my readers believe that the 2020 election was stolen. Many believe that the conservative-stacked Supreme Court; Trump-appointed judges; pro-life hero and Trump loyalist Vice President Mike Pence; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and most GOP legislators are all wrong—and that Donald Trump and his allies, including Lin Wood—a man who suggested Pence be arrested for treason and shot by firing squad–are right. Apparently, many of you know something that they do not, or care more about election integrity than they do. Or, stranger still, it appears that men and women with decades-long records of being principled, pro-life social conservatives are now considered to be traitors to a man with a decades-long history of lying and loyalty only to himself. It is a strange political moment we live in, and I don’t claim to completely understand it.
The evidence presented in the courts has been rejected by judges left and right, and Senator Ben Sasse, for the record, has stated that none of his GOP colleagues believe that Trump actually won the election while speaking in private (although a few, like Cruz, are willing to play politics in public in a cynical preparation for a future presidential run.) Sasse thoroughly debunks the various claims, and I believe he is right. Anyone convinced that fraud tipped the election should give him a read. Again, I suppose this boils down to who you believe to be more credible. Some are choosing Trump. Others, like myself, believe Pence, McConnell, the courts, and many men and women who have given me every reason to trust them since the beginning of their careers. At the end of the day this is a matter of judgement.
I’ll confess that the love and fervor so many seem to have for Trump has always bewildered me. Watching MAGA diehards ram the barricades in front of the Capitol during the electoral college proceedings, I was reminded of the first Trump rally I attended in Charleston in February 2016. Watching Trump rile the crowd was surreal, and I frequently felt like the only sober guy at a party where everyone was drunk—I knew they were having an authentic experience; I simply couldn’t access it. When Trump got elected, I relished the schadenfreude of watching those who had believed they would rule forever with their “coalition of the ascendant” mourn their loss of power. I was pleased, and sometimes thrilled, by the Trump Administration’s commitment to many socially conservative policies. But he never changed—and he never even pretended to. We hoped he had because he delivered on many of the things we wanted. But he didn’t. That’s why Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned this week. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe her—one of the appointments that bought Trump the praise of social conservatives in the first place.
I understand political loyalties, and even loyalty to a leader. But I am boggled by the fact that so many people who share my values believe Donald Trump over Mike Pence (who is reportedly livid at Trump); that so many call the man who single-handedly engineered the conservative majority on the Supreme Court a traitor; and at the vicious attacks on principled, Christian politicians who have lived impeccable personal lives and fought for life and family their entire careers. Trump has somehow become something much, much bigger than a politician in the minds of many. He has somehow managed to achieve the love and trust of millions, and I have no idea why. I’ve appreciated many of the things he did during his pre-election tenure and have written about them—especially on the pro-life front. But I also believe that Pence deserves most of the credit for those things.
As I wrote over at The American Conservative after the election (when it still looked likely that the GOP could hang on to the Georgia Senate seats), I believe there is a path forward for the GOP. But first, they will have to extricate themselves from the scorched earth exit of Donald Trump—if it is an exit. If Trump decides to run again in 2024, or start a third party and serve the function of Ross Perot, or attempts to shape the GOP’s future going forward, the Republican Party will be chained to the personal interests of a single, megalomaniac man. And as his attacks on Mike Pence prove once again, with Trump, loyalty only flows one way. People literally died on Capitol Hill this week over their devotion to the president and their belief that his tirades on fraud were correct. What an awful waste of life. What a horrible way for this to end. Families will mourn at funerals in the coming days. Conspiracies have a real cost.
As religious leaders from Trump supporter Al Mohler to William Lane Craig are pointing out, character is, at the end of the day, destiny. Everything that has happened since the election is consistent with Trump’s character. I know that those of you who believe Trump is more trustworthy than Mike Pence or Betsy DeVos or Ben Sasse aren’t going to believe it. To many of you, dedication to Trump has become the litmus test for whether you believe someone. Time and again, I’ve seen evidence dismissed simply because it was presented by someone who has disagreed with the president. Men and women who have fought for the pro-life cause for decades have been smeared and attacked simply for opposing him or objecting to his rhetoric. In that case, nothing I say is going to persuade you. But I will say this: That view has nothing to do with being dedicated to the pro-life cause, or to social conservatism, or anything else. It is loyalty to a single politician who threw away the GOP senate majority over his own damaged ego. That, we will discover in the coming days, will be a high cost indeed.