Sorry, there is no "post-Trump" GOP — his tiny fingers have Republicans in a death grip

Trump's power is clear in the different Republican reactions to a roads-and-bridges bill and Gosar's attack on AOC

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published November 10, 2021 12:45PM (EST)

Kevin McCarthy, Donald Trump and Paul Gosar (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Kevin McCarthy, Donald Trump and Paul Gosar (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Early Wednesday morning, Jim VandeHei of Axios — always ready to perform cleanup duty for the Republican Party — engaged in a hilarious bit of wishcasting with a piece headline "Post-Trump GOP doctrine." While admitting in his conclusion that "Trump will probably run in 2024 and make the GOP about his various grievances," VandeHei nonetheless insists that Republicans "are slowly but surely charting a post-Trump ideology and platform." He even wrote that the shiny new GOP is "rallying around a plan to break up with corporate America," a claim that perhaps made writers at the Onion jealous. 

There is no end to the delusional capacities of the Beltway media who want a more defensible Republican Party than the one they actually have to deal with, but this was a particularly striking week to roll out this particular Penthouse Forum letter of politics. Because right now we've got two concurrent stories that illustrate exactly how much the GOP remains in thrall to Donald Trump's style of politics.

Trumpism is, of course, about being unapologetically racist and misogynist. But it's also about an all-out war approach to politics, where Democrats are seen as an enemy to be annihilated — with actual violence most definitely on the table — rather than an opposition party in a democratic system of governance. After all, the Trumpist style rejects the legitimacy of democracy.

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Consider the situation of Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona. In a densely competitive field, Gosar has a long history of standing out as one of the worst Republicans in Congress, who doesn't even try to hide that he's a white nationalist. On Sunday, Gosar tweeted out what can only be described as a fan-made video depicting Gosar and other noxious GOP trolls like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado murdering Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and President Biden. Under criticism and threats of an ethics probe, Gosar took the tweet down, and of course denied that he had any violent intentions. Of course — since the GOP motto may as well be "always be trolling" — Gosar also made a point of referring to Ocasio-Cortez with an anglicized version of her last name, instead of the one she uses.  

The temptation, of course, is to write off Gosar's video as an obnoxious but largely harmless bit of bait. Gosar's team is pretending that's the deal, appealing to the impulses of the Axios crowd that fervently wants to believe the GOP is returning to its 2012 state of so-called normal, meaning somewhat subtler race-baiting under a veneer of respectability. But Gosar's actions can't be meaningfully separated from what Charles Pierce at Esquire calls the "level of violence humming barely below the surface of our politics."

RELATED: Arizona's Rep. Paul Gosar: GOP's leading ambassador to white supremacy

This is the same GOP that is backing Trump as he repeats the Big Lie, day and night, knowing full well that the result is an unprecedented number of violent threats aimed at election officials across the country. Even "mainstream" Republicans are rolling with this because they understand that such threats of violence are effective at running honest officials off, so they can be replaced with partisan hacks only too happy to help Trump steal the 2024 election. This is the same Republican Party that is busy covering up Trump's attempted coup that culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol. Unsurprisingly, Gosar was one of the speakers at the rally that kicked off the insurrection. And, as literally everyone in politics knows, the unhinged types that Trump sent to the Capitol on Jan. 6 have a particularly murderous hatred towards Ocasio-Cortez

Naturally enough, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is ignoring all calls, including from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to discipline Gosar for his behavior. Which is exactly what Ocasio-Cortez predicted McCarthy would do

Instead, McCarthy seems more worried about the House Republicans who voted for Biden's bipartisan infrastructure bill. He had given GOP members the green light as they wished, but they didn't do it in precisely the order he wished, and now he's reportedly angry. In fact, this is just more evidence that the GOP is far more attuned to the desires of Trump and the far right than they are to any remaining moderates in their party, much less swing voters who might actually like to have crumbling roads and bridges and other elements of their community's infrastructure shored up a bit. 

RELATED: GOP may punish members for backing infrastructure — but Gosar, MTG are no problem

Trump himself bashed the Republicans who voted for the bill on Monday, in a speech otherwise dedicated to — what else? — his endless griping about the 2020 election and his false claims that Biden "stole" it. In the speech, Trump said the 13 Republicans who voted for the bill should be "ashamed of themselves" for "helping the Democrats."

But it's not just the content of the speech that is relevant here. What's even more important is that he was the big draw at a House Republican campaign event, and apparently droned on for 90 minutes. The point of his speech — as with every speech he gives, with the full support of the Republican Party — is that everything the GOP does should be focused on Trump's fictional grievances about 2020 and his total-war views of politics. This is not the behavior of a "post-Trump" party. 

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The Trumpist camp has now declared war on those 13 House Republicans, with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows taking to Steve Bannon's popular podcast to rail about how they should be stripped of their committee assignments. McCarthy, who is basically a coward, probably won't take it that far. But it's doubtful he'll lift a finger to defend those members, either from the death threats they're reportedly getting or from primary challenges by the Trumpist far right.

This situation is even weirder than the Republican default setting, because as president Trump himself was always going on and on about the forthcoming "Infrastructure Week," though he and GOP leadership were too lazy and disorganized to ever make that happen. Now Democrats have actually gotten it done — and Trump may well benefit from this bill, if he retakes the White House in 2024 and, inevitably, starts claiming credit for the roads and bridges.

But the Trumpian ethos of politics as total war doesn't allow any kind of agreement with Democrats on anything — even when Trump actually agrees with them. To work with Democrats is to legitimize both the opposing party and the entire concept of representative democracy, and Trump will allow neither. The Republican Party, which he still totally controls, is falling in line. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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