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Trump Loyalists Still Have A Strong Hold On The Republican Party


On Tuesday, 45 out of 50 Senate Republicans voted to try to stop the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. Democrats still won out with a handful of Republicans on board. But that vote could signal how GOP lawmakers intend to go in a post-Trump political world. Jonah Goldberg is a conservative columnist, editor-in-chief of The Dispatch, regular guest on this very program. Good morning, Jonah.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK. So a handful of familiar Republican names crossed party lines to support impeachment - the trial, at least - Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, Pat Toomey. I name them because those are the same people who've been critical of Donald Trump several other times. So even though we heard Mitch McConnell place blame for the January 6 riot squarely at the feet of President Trump, it seems to have changed nothing when it comes to the party's loyalty to him.

GOLDBERG: I don't know that it's changed nothing; it just hasn't changed enough. The dilemma that the Republican Party faces for a long time, whether or not Donald Trump remains this outside influence six months or a year from now that he is currently, is just simply that Donald Trump has now become a wedge issue for the Republican Party. He divides the Republican Party. Obviously, the majority - significant and, for my case, depressing - majority of Republicans don't want to publicly get crosswise with him.

But the problem is is that as it stands right now, demographically, at least across the country and in the sort of tipping point swing states like Arizona and Georgia, the Republican Party is - needs every conceivable Republican voter to stay to keep from being a minority party, a permanent minority party. And you shave off the 10 to 15% of Republicans who just are sick of the Trump stuff, you're not going to make up for that with rural voters and others who only turn out when Trump is on the ticket anyway. So the Republican Party's got a huge problem here. And it's a very depressing one because it's leading to the Republican Party making allowances for crazies - I mean, forget the racist arguments, just absolute crazy people - because they think they need them in their coalition.

The idea that Liz Cheney, the No. 3 ranking House Republican, is getting more pressure and more attacks from fellow Republicans than Marjorie Taylor Greene, this absolute loony bird, scary QAnon type just tells you a lot about where the GOP is right now.

MARTIN: I mean, Marjorie Taylor Greene - Jen Psaki, at the podium in the White House the other day, was asked about her, said she don't want to talk about Marjorie Taylor Greene in the briefing room. But Republicans sort of have to talk about her because she does, as you note, represent something very real, a very real energy, even though you say it's a crazy and damaging energy.

GOLDBERG: Absolutely. Look, I mean, this is a huge argument that I've been having with fellow conservatives for a while now. There is a real sort of victim culture, sort of right-wing snowflake-ism (ph) taking over big chunks of the right. You're not allowed to criticize our crazy people. You're not allowed to criticize Donald Trump. You're not allowed to criticize us for thinking that the election was stolen. You know, that's like now, like, an identity politics argument.

Like, you're supposed to, like, respect people's beliefs that, you know, the Venezuelans and the North Koreans stole the election kind of thing. And the problem with this is that if you want to take offense at being lumped in with insurrectionists and racists and white supremacists and QAnon conspiracy people thing - stuff, you can't just take offense when people lump you in with that. You actually have to denounce those people, too. You have to draw clear, bright lines. That's the best way to send a signal that you don't want to be lumped in with those people is by not letting yourself be lumped in with those people. But instead...

MARTIN: But the future...

GOLDBERG: ...They want to close ranks.

MARTIN: The future of your party doesn't look to be doing that. I mean, when you think about someone like Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., governor of South Carolina - I mean, she has been incredibly reticent to criticize President Trump for his role in the January 6 riot. And she hasn't explicitly condemned someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, which I think is shameful. And I'm friends with Nikki. My wife used to work for her. But you know, at this point, the political calculation for a lot of these people, particularly people looking at 2024, is they can't win without Trump voters. Trump is now this cultural war - culture war symbol. You're either a defender of him, or you're not. And that goes for his strongest and biggest defenders, too. And that's what people like Marjorie Taylor Greene are like. They - you know, as long as you're heroically on the front lines defending Trump, you can't criticize those people either. It's hugely dysfunctional.

MARTIN: Jonah Goldberg of The Dispatch, columnist for The LA Times.

Thanks as always, Jonah.

GOLDBERG: Great to be here. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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