The Cost of Conspiracy: The GOP loses the Senate and Trump turns on Pence

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.

17 thoughts on “The Cost of Conspiracy: The GOP loses the Senate and Trump turns on Pence

  1. Same says:

    Jonathan, I think it is time for self reflection here. Yes, you wrote about hopes for a national conservative movement and the republicans reshaping themselves in the past. However, your constant diatribes against only one party and refusal to discuss Trump’s ugly instincts gave intellectual and moral cover for voters to shelter in Trump’s corner.

    You, along with plenty of other conservatives, hitched yourself to Trump’s wagon for the benefit of your pet policies. Only now are you really separating yourself – but the damage has been done.

    How can you argue that the religious right and the pro-life movement has consistent morals when it acts like the ends justify the means? There was no need for you to prop up the Republicans, but you did.

    It is time to have a careful think.

    • Jonathon Van Maren says:

      You must not have been reading me consistently. I’ve written plenty of columns on Trump’s ugly instincts. Many of them were dedicated *solely* to Trump’s ugly instincts. At the end of the day, though, the task of a lobby group is to utilize political opportunities for policy. This would have been as true with Bill Clinton (the last president to be as sexually scummy as Trump) as it was with Trump.

      All of that said, I hardly think pointing out that one party defends killing babies in the womb throughout all nine months of pregnancy is a “diatribe.” And while Trump’s awful character–which again, I’ve been writing about since 2015–is a good reason not to vote for him, it is impossible to vote for someone who believes it is a right to kill members of one group of human beings. One is a moral dilemma with several possible answers. The other is no dilemma at all.

      • Sam says:

        1) Yes, you pointed out Trump’s ugly character;
        2) You, however, gave moral/ethical reasons to still support him;
        3) There is no need to support Trump to get your preferred policies passed;
        4) Your activism is based in your morality – you give up your morality, you give up the basis for your activism;
        5) Bill Clinton is accused of stepping out on Hillary once for possibly consensual oral sex;
        6) Trump is accused by 26 woman of sexual assault;
        7) Trump admitted on tape to sexual assault behaviour;
        8) Abstention is always an options;
        9) If you moral argument is correct, you can sway legislators of any stripe; and,
        10) If your president burns down the democracy, was the policy gains worth it?

        • Jonathon Van Maren says:

          2. There were, I believe–contingently. It depends on your philosophy of voting.
          3. Sure. That’s why I was never a Trump fan, and noted in that even in articles where I approved of his polices.
          4. This is premised on the idea that voting for the lesser of two evils is “giving up your morality,” which I reject.
          5. This is total bs and you know it. Clinton was credibly accused of rape. Read Uncovering Clinton by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, or No One Left to Lie To by Christopher Hitchens, lefties both of them. A straight up lie to cover for a guy on your side.
          7. I wrote about the Billy Bush tapes several times when they were released, and they were the reason I didn’t vote for him.
          9. I wish this were true, but it unfortunately is not and I think you know it.
          10. No. But that question doesn’t sum up the situation.

          • Sam says:

            2. I think the bigger issue is: If it looks like a duck …
            4. It looks an awful lot like support for his slate of policies, etc…
            5. Just Googled it. I was indeed mistaken – there were (at least) four accusations and stand corrected.
            9. I agree there are large systemic issues in politics (ie. dark money) … ideally, your candidate would match your ideals. I think we are both getting ready for no one to ever take Republicans seriously on moral issues every again.
            10. Perhaps it’s stated stronger than the facts … but it could have happened and may still happen. Let’s wait for Jan 20.

  2. Navi says:

    Very sad, and incredibly frustrating. I obviously underestimated the danger and relevance of Qanon and the kraken wing of the GOP, especially with the President of the United States amplifying its most prominent blowhards. Most Trump supporters clearly do buy at least some of the conspiracies about mass voter fraud. Very few are irrational enough to skip an important and winnable election, but you only need a small percent to flip the scale when the margins are that tight. More frightening, rioting and mob rule have killed at least one police officer and may become the new norm instead of the peaceful transfer of power.

    With regards to the balance in the Senate, I think it’s very unlikely that Democrats are able to pass radical legislation. Their advantage in the House is quite small, and anything the Senate passes has to get through the filibuster. Joe Manchin, the sole moderate Democrat in the chamber, has already said “no way” to nuking the filibuster (as well as court-packing itself) and there are several not-so-moderate Democratic senators in red/purple states that still want to keep their seats. If we need further evidence, Bernie Sanders himself said last night on CNN that Democrats should go big. But when pressed on how they were going to do it, he pointed to budget reconciliation (along with executive action). This implies nuking the filibuster is off the table.

    So for now it seems Democrats cannot pack the Supreme Court, nor credibly threaten to do so in order to ensure a favourable ruling on abortion (which, in my view, would be much worse than court-packing itself). They were barely able to pass Obamacare back when the party had actually campaigned on healthcare reform and they had a massive majority in the Senate; now it’s only 50-50 and court-packing was a “hidden agenda” item rather than an explicit promise. I said earlier that the more real threats are getting rid of the Hyde Amendment through budget reconciliation (at least until the GOP gets one chamber or the White House back), approving HHS or CDC personnel that would make getting abortion pills easier than ordering a pizza (Xavier Becerra being one of these people – he will be very difficult to stop now, as we’ll need a unified Republican caucus plus a Democrat or two), and setting up the party for 2022 (Democrats have opportunities to gain more seats, which will very likely result in the filibuster being nuked as well as court-packing and abortion up to birth codified into law if Republicans manage to blow another one – which we can see they’re capable of doing).

      • Lisa says:

        I believe that this is a spiritual fight. An old jesuit trick is for a man for each side and the common goal is achieved as they play the game. Abortion is child sacrifice that has always existed and those who are now in power are eugenisists. Unfortunately the protestant reformation, which was fought for by the martyrs, (as they lay down their lives to grant us freedom to worship God conscientiously) has been made of no account as most of the religious world is renouncing faith in the reformers’ blood sacrifice and BOWING TO THE VERY CHURCH THAT TORTURED AND MURDERED THEIR CHURCH FOUNDERS. Now that JB has been elected it won’t be long ’til church and state are united and ‘All the world wandered after the beast’. The 95 theses nailed to church in Wittenberg, by Martin Luther have been summarised by rc church into, ‘We are saved through grace, by Jesus’works’,’ Which should read, “We are SAVED BY GRACE, THROUGH FAITH” (as without FAITH IN JESUS and His atoning blood sacrifice none can be saved). The catholic position is that Jesus DID NOT DIE FOR US and that He saved us through His works. Then the infammy of purgatory and the living, working and paying, to free their loved ones. ‘COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE…’ Pleaded for by Jesus. Those who refuse to comply with future mandates on worshipping the rc church way will find that the dark ages pale when compared to what lies ahead. The environmental rest day, (OF COURSE SUNDAY), is to begin in April and then it will soon be the norm and become mandated for worship to bring back the favour of God as calamities increase. Those who refuse ….. May Jesus come quickly to rescue His bride.

  3. Paul Marks says:

    The mass mail-in ballots were unlawful in several key States as State Legislatures had not changed the Election Laws of those States to allow the mass mail-in ballots. Nor was there real checking of these mass mail-in ballots to make sure they actually came from the people they were supposed to be from – and Republican poll watchers were denied there legal rights in key places (I personally watched that happen – via mobile phone cameras).

    So I reject your basic contention that the election was not rigged. The election was rigged.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Trump did make a huge mistake in how he spoke about voting, though I don’t think he was wrong about some fraud taking place.

    “I think we are both getting ready for no one to ever take Republicans seriously on moral issues every again”

    Seriously, that’s downright amusing considering the left party’s behavior. I don’t think Trump ever spoke of committing sexual assault; I think he was bragging that as a rich man, there were numerous women who would do anything with him.

    • Sam says:

      In case you’ve forgotten what Trump actually said, please see the transcript below this sentence.

      “Trump: “Yeah that’s her with the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”

      Bush: “Whatever you want.”

      Trump: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.””

      This section bears repeating: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

      There is no room for interpretation here. He is admitting that he sees a beautiful woman and automatically walks up and kisses them. He doesn’t wait. He doesn’t ask for consent. He is attracted and kisses.

      Do you really think that every woman he’s kissed would do anything with him? I think not. I think they see a brash billionaire and realize they would be ruined if they tried to punish him appropriately.

      And, just so you know, the Left hasn’t tried to state it’s a paragon of family values then whole heartedly embrace a famous adulterer, philanderer and bragger-of-sexual-assault. The Right gave up their moral high horse and won’t be listened to when they eventually get back to being moral scolds.

      • Navi says:

        But the left does pretend to be champions of women’s rights and empowerment yet they embrace the likes of Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Andrew Cuomo. The latter is currently in a bit of hot water, but they’ll come crawling back to him after he becomes the prohibitive favourite for the Democratic nomination for NY governor. Joy Behar already said the quiet part out loud.

        • Sam says:

          Navi, here’s the difference: when Al Franken was accused, he was removed by the Democrats. When Anthony Weiner was accused, he was removed by the Democrats. Now Andrew Cuomo is accused and he is being denounced by the Democrats.

          Joy Behar has no policy influence and is a talking head. Plus, her comment was that she feared Republican policies, not that she was taking sides in whether Cuomo was guilty or not.

          Remember what happened when Trump was accused by 26 women of sexual assault? I don’t recall a single Republican saying anything. More importantly, I recall droves of evangelicals, who are still denouncing Bill Clinton, forgiving Trump and voting for him.

          • Navi says:

            Al Franken was never “removed”, he chose to step down after being denounced (probably so that Democrats could have the moral high ground in the Alabama senate race and defeat Roy Moore). That says nothing about what would’ve happened to him had he refused to resign (as Governor Coonman and Lt. Governor Fairfax did in Virginia – they rode it out and now Democratic politicians beg them for their endorsements). Trump was in fact widely condemned by his party when the Hollywood Access tape came out (the Speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, the RNC, among others), but refused to step aside and Republicans ended up crawling back to him.


            The same will happen with Andrew Cuomo. Joy Behar may be a talking head, but she knows where the puck is going and her stance is in line with what other New York Democrats think.


            As it is now, President Biden put Governor Cuomo in charge of his weekly COVID debriefings with the governors (which used to be the vice president’s job). And he was given a speaking slot at the 2020 DNC, even after he murdered thousands of nursing home residents, a day before Bill Clinton’s DNC speech. All this will blow over.

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