Senate Republicans could still save their party from disaster. We already know they won't

With American democracy at an inflection point, Republicans face a historic choice. Unfortunately, they've made it

Published February 5, 2021 5:50AM (EST)

Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Make no mistake about it: This is Donald Trump's Republican Party. The party has become a wasteland of Trumpism. Rather than embracing Trump's exit and beginning to reinvent itself, the party has chosen to double down on Trumpism. As a result, the Republican Party is in grave danger of becoming a fringe group, unmoored from reality and antagonistic to democracy. All because of Donald Trump and his four-year history of pathology and self-serving maliciousness. 

Trump's mental pathology has been projected onto the country. Divisiveness, tribalism, cruelty, violence, lies, propaganda and conspiracy theories are all manifestations of his pathology. In the beginning, Republicans were enablers who were complicit in Trump's mission of securing absolute power, politicizing the Department of Justice, grifting the American public and breaking all norms, rules and laws with impunity.

Even at the tail end of his regime, many Republicans supported or participated in Trump's incitement of insurrection against our democratic election. Nothing could have been more anti-American and treasonous than an attempted coup of our election process, led by a sitting president. Trump understood that Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were in grave danger and could have been murdered. He did not care a whit. Many congressional Republicans were on board. Some may have given tours to the insurrectionists the day before the Jan. 6 crisis at the Capitol. To be sure, the attempted rebellion against our government was orchestrated and sanctioned by President Trump. It was a history-making, jaw-dropping, America-bashing maneuver by a president who was trying to overturn the will of the people. 

After Jan. 6, the Republican party could have reawakened and changed course. Instead, it has regressed into an abyss of extremism, lies, conspiracy theories and threats of violence. House Republicans have refused to repudiate or expel Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who in effect has now become the poster child for the party. Her vile and incendiary rhetoric has not been rebuffed or stamped out, and at best has only been set aside for the moment. Rep. Matt Gaetz has traveled to Wyoming to rile up supporters to denounce Rep. Liz Cheney for the sin of voting to impeach Trump.

Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who led the attempt in the Senate to overturn a legitimate election, have not repudiated the insurrectionists. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has traveled to Florida to kiss Trump's ring and enlist his further influence in the party. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell talks out of both sides of his mouth. Sen. Lindsey Graham is a firm supporter of Trumpism, even while voting to reject the coup attempt itself. The list goes on.

It is inconceivable that all of Trump's 74 million voters are supportive of the aberrant and imploding Republican party. They cannot possibly all believe that wildfires were started by "Jewish space lasers," that school shootings which devastated the entire country were elaborate hoaxes, that Trump won the election by a landslide, and that the attempted overthrow of democracy is to be rewarded. Most reasonable and thoughtful Americans must understand that the Republican Party has devolved into an extremist faction that does not have our country's viability and sustainability at heart. These conspiracy theorists, and those in Congress who support them, are anti-democratic in their basic belief system. They are unhinged from reality, and their unimaginable conspiracy theories are now at the core of Trumpism.

Donald Trump was never a healthy and effective national leader — and most certainly will never be one in the future — because his mental pathology will not allow it. Because of his disorder, Trump will forever be divisive, hostile, cruel,  paranoid and wedded to propaganda. It is impossible for him to be rational, compromising, empathetic or unifying. He is a transactional opportunist who simply does not understand public service, care for others, sacrifice or mutual understanding. He is a destroyer rather than a builder. He is consumed with greed and self-aggrandizement rather than an altruistic desire to help others. 

To have any kind of healthy future in American politics, the Republican Party must divorce itself from Trump immediately. It must reinvent itself with renewed democratic principles and ideals. The party must find fresh leaders who are courageous and fearless. Unfortunately, we already know this is unlikely to happen.

Senate Republicans still have a chance, at least hypothetically, to forge their final divorce from Donald Trump during his upcoming impeachment trial. This their chance to make their mark in history. This is their chance to shape the new trajectory of their party, and create the possibility of a healthy political future. Convicting Trump and banning him from future elected office would send a dramatic message to all Americans. Republicans have a chance to be true heroes — rather than spineless cowards. Many of them must understand that their party is dead in the water if they hitch their wagon to Trumpism going forward. It has no chance of success. Americans are not ready to lose their cherished democracy in the name of treasonous Donald Trump. It is not going to happen.

Even beyond Trump, the Republican Party must jettison its extremist and fringe followers. There must be no room for lies, conspiracy theories, white supremacy, radical violence or insurrection against our democracy. 

We are at an inflection point in the American experiment. Donald Trump is gone from office at last, but his influence is still metastasizing like a cancer within the Republican party. 

Senate Republicans face a historic choice. They can nail Donald Trump's political coffin closed, or send our democracy down a dark and rocky path. 

By Alan D. Blotcky

Alan D. Blotcky, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Alabama, and a clinical associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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