The Grand Old Party is at a major crossroads as it nears its 168th birthday. Former President Donald Trump is at a similar juncture as he nears his 76th. How these two traverse their intersecting crossroads will go a long way to determine whether Republicans will win major victories in this year’s congressional contests and whether they will recapture the White House in 2024.
At the moment, the disjointed and deteriorating relationship between Mr. Trump and some of the Party’s rising stars does not bode well for lasting GOP victories. This should not be the case.
Polling shows clearly that the American electorate is deeply frustrated and disappointed with the Biden presidency; to the extent even that voters are being pulled away from the Democrat Party and into the Republican orbit.
At the same time, a cadre of well-known and popular Republican governors are implementing positive public policies far more successfully than their Democrat counterparts.
In both houses of Congress, Republican leadership is successfully maintaining a united front in opposition to the socialist agendas being pressed by Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer.
Republicans should be clamoring to highlight the tremendous accomplishments of governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Maryland’s Larry Hogan, and others. These state leaders represent a clear and positive antidote to the damage being inflicted on our country by the Biden Administration and its congressional cohorts.
So, what exactly is the problem for the GOP? In a word, the immediate past president.
Unlike Republican former presidents before him, who, after leaving office supported the Party, its leaders, and its candidates so as to strengthen the Party moving forward, Trump has shown no desire to fill the role of GOP “elder statesman” -- a post from which he could provide a strong and positive voice fueling GOP momentum heading into November 2022 and 2024.
Instead, Trump appears to have voluntarily anchored himself to a circular 2020 election loop; occasionally stopping only long enough to attack other Republicans who he feels “betrayed” him. In one instance – Georgia – he has opined publicly that far-left Democrat Stacey Abrams would make a better governor than conservative incumbent GOP Gov. Brian Kemp; an absurd and destructive notion no matter the context.
Then there is Trump’s fracas with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Probably nobody except Trump has endured the level of abuse from the Mainstream Media as has DeSantis. Nevertheless, the Floridian’s steadfast leadership during COVID to keep Florida “open for business,” combined with his cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor in the face of media attacks, has made him an early -- and deservedly credible -- 2024 frontrunner.
Going after DeSantis now is akin to putting a stick in the spokes of one’s own bicycle. Although the latest kerfuffle comes from private comments leaked to the media, it is not the first shot Trump has taken at DeSantis in recent weeks. Such squabbles serve no end other than to possibly weaken DeSantis as a future presidential candidate, which in turn weakens the GOP.
If Trump’s true interests lie in helping the Republican Party and its future, a serious attitude adjustment is in order. To start, grievances Trump may harbor with other high profile GOP leaders should be sorted privately; public spats are especially harmful to Republicans this cycle, considering all that is on the line in the next three years.
Even better would be for Trump to stop fighting with the GOP’s crop of stars, and instead help guide them behind the scenes.
Trump should focus his public relations on all the good his administration accomplished -- huge tax cuts, a booming economy, and a truly genius approach to finding a vaccine for COVID. Reminding the public of such wins would be immensely helpful for the GOP, which in turn can focus on its many and ongoing positive policy accomplishments -- contrasted to the awful state of affairs wrought by the current administration.
Most importantly, the GOP must decide to openly support its governors and congressional leaders against baseless and errant attacks, regardless of who is making them, whether a Democrat or a former Republican president.
Failing to thus stand up for itself and for its own elected officials – the ones who now are actually implementing policies which the Grand Old Party historically has championed – is a weakness that will, in the end, hurt Republicans more than anything the Democrats might throw at it.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.