*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
It is an oddity in American elections to see one of the two major political parties engaged in what is now a very public civil war. This is particularly true for Republicans who, over the past eight years, have had to rush to defend some clearly extremist comments by their own members and still support them despite they made similar comments to the party’s standard bearer, Donald J. Trump.
What is exceptionally gleeful for those tasked with observing, analyzing, and commenting on politics is that this civil war may well serve to purge the once-proud GOP of its extremist elements. Although that is highly unlikely, one can hope that Donald Trump’s candidacy had some beneficial effect on American politics.
On Monday when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan informed Republican lawmakers during a morning conference call that he would never again campaign for Mr. Trump, he probably didn’t anticipate the rage of many in his caucus at what they consider Party infidelity. Mr. Ryan didn’t say he was abandoning the Party; just that he was dedicating himself to defending the party’s majority in Congress. It is also noteworthy, and frankly hypocritical, that Ryan is not withdrawing his endorsement of Mr. Trump, just his defense and campaign support; something he had to reiterate 45-minutes later after Republicans went ballistic over what they perceived as party treason.
It isn’t clear what Paul Ryan thought was going to happen when he withdrew his support for Trump, especially when the primary reason a perverted malcontent like Trump is the party nominee is Republican extremism. Republicans have spent the past eight years cultivating Trump’s current base of support and that pandering to, and embrace of extremists is now paying dividends Republicans don’t want or need. Ryan should have expected outrage from his fellow Republicans in Congress after he was heckled and booed by his Republican base when Trump failed to appear at a campaign rally in Ryan’s congressional district just three days ago.
It is certain that no-one, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, was surprised that Trump lashed out at his announcement that his focus would be on congressional races and not on the party standard bearer. Trump angrily tweeted that,
“Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee.”
The pushback from Ryan’s fellow Republicans in the House was more direct and inflammatory. California congressman and Trump supporter Dana Rohrabacher attacked Ryan and other Republicans abandoning Trump as “cowards,” according to three GOP lawmakers. Another House Republican, Trent Franks (AZ), used graphic language to describe abortions and said “that allowing Mrs. Clinton into the White House would end with fetuses being destroyed limb from limb.” Franks, like most religious Republicans not only oppose women’s freedom to choose their own reproductive health, they are ardent supporters of Trump’s idea of punishing women who have made the decision to terminate a pregnancy.
Paul Ryan put up with outrage from his caucus and they finally had to interject himself back into the “discussion” after about 45 minutes to assure caucus members that he was not withdrawing his endorsement of Mr. Trump, but rather doing what he felt was in the best interests of the House. Now, what is beyond refute is that although some, and that is a very small “some,” national Republicans feign being repulsed by Trump’s attitude towards women, they all ardently support his purely Republican policies on wars, taxes, domestic policies and abolishing social contracts like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It is the only reason most Republicans have hewed closely to Trump or have at least attempted to couch whatever level of repulsion they may have for a bigoted misogynist pig that is a very typically Republican bigot misogynist pig.
The dilemma for all Republicans is that if they completely disavow all fealty to Donald Trump, the maniac whose supporters make up the largest share of the Republican base, they risk alienating those voters and losing their jobs. That is already a problem for Arizona Senator John McCain who withdrew his endorsement of Trump and promptly lost Republican voter support in his campaign to save his Senate seat.
Republicans have spent the past eight years either pandering to extremist conservatives or embracing policy positions they know are contrary to what America is about. And, it all began as an official Republican protest and rejection of the people’s choice of Barack Obama as President. They have propped up bigots to secure the electoral support of the religious right and white supremacists, and became bonafide misogynists to sate the anti-choice and anti-equal rights for women crowd ensconced in the evangelical movement.
Now that their eight-year crusade has delivered what the Republican base wants, a Donald Trump for president, they are making tacit attempts to distance themselves from their own creation. As many Republicans are now witnessing, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, that base of support Republicans carefully groomed for a Trump candidacy is rebelling against “party defections” and as political civil wars go, this one is very public and one seriously hopes is fatal for the extremist wing of the conservative movement.