GOP still embraces Trump

By Jules Witcover

Frustrated by Senate Republicans’ refusal to join a bipartisan commission looking into the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ordered a House-only version with eight Democrats and five Republicans to undertake the task.

At best, it may be an exercise in more frustration if not futility, lacking the credibility of a fully balanced bipartisan investigation.

But Pelosi has chosen Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming to serve as one of the House Republicans, who has conspicuously disavowed former president Donald Trump. Cheney has said she would do all in her power to see that he “never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”

Still, it seems unlikely Pelosi’s inquiry will produce any clear-cut indictment of Trump for his role in inciting the armed assault on the legislative branch.

Nearly the entire Republican Party continues to embrace the ex-president as he continues his transparently mendacious and vile effort to cast doubt on the 2020 election. His big lie that President Joe Biden’s election was fraudulent is doing great damage to our democratic process.

At stake may well be the survival of the Republican Party and of the two-party system. Trump clings to hope of a comeback in 2024 by fanning the embers of his remaining fervent support in the South, the West and other conservative rural regions.

At the same time, Biden labors to sustain his narrow margin of political strength in both houses of Congress. In the upcoming midterm elections he must hold or increase those majorities in order to enact his ambitious domestic agenda during his term.

He already is greatly burdened by circumstances not of his making, first in the pandemic that still grips the nation despite herculean efforts to develop and distribute vaccines to a public somewhat divided on their acceptance.

On top of that, in recent days came the calamity of the high-rise condo building collapse in Florida that has left nearly 150 residents either dead or unaccounted for, and a nation in mourning.

If ever there were a period, short of wartime, when national unity and patriotism were called for, we are in it. Required now is a revival of the shattered Grand Old Party, which must restore itself under credible and effective leadership for the general good. However, that remains more a hope than a probability as long as Donald Trump remains a corrupt and divisive presence on the American political landscape.

The once-nominated and rejected former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney remains in the U.S. Senate, but he retains little influence in the party. No other prominent Republican of the stature of the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona, another losing presidential nominee, is yet to emerge in the party’s desperate need.

Its most visible veterans currently in office, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, are today awash in controversy as they labor to give the party of Lincoln a respectable face and voice in the national debate. It’s a sorry state, not only for Republicans but also for all who yearn for better days in our shaken political system.

Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at [email protected]

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