Trump Forced the Ultimate Loyalty Test on Congressional Republicans

Even after the president incited an insurrection against Congress, six senators and 121 representatives voted to proclaimed that the GOP is his party.

The only thing more frustrating than watching Donald Trump desecrate the presidency over the last four years has been to watch his Republican enablers in congress support him in those efforts. He would have been removed from office during the impeachment trial if just a few of them had managed to grow a spine and acknowledge the danger he posed to our republic. 

But it took voters to say “enough is enough” and finally end this nightmare. Trump lost the election and that is what led to the crisis that peaked on Wednesday at the Capitol. 

Tony Schwartz was the ghostwriter for Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, and Tim O’Brien wrote TrumpNation. That gave both men deep insights into the man who would become president, including how he reacts to losing. Here’s Schwartz:

Trump grew up fighting for his life and taking no prisoners. In countless conversations, he made clear to me that he treated every encounter as a contest he had to win, because the only other option from his perspective was to lose, and that was the equivalent of obliteration.

O’Brien issued a similar warning.

He’s been doing this sort of thing his entire life: Spinning victory yarns from incontrovertible losses was a hallmark of his troubled business career…Trump is cornered and outmaneuvered, so we’re likely to get more of the same as he continues to test the Constitution and the boundaries of presidential authority: constant spinning about winning, even when the losses are apparent.

I doubt that either of these men were surprised that, when faced with losing the election, Trump began to decompensate and responded by spreading delusional lies about how he actually won. 

Congressional Republicans let him get away with that for weeks. But when state election officials, the courts, and even the president’s own attorney general called out the lies, giving credence to the delusion began to take its toll. Finally, on Wednesday, Republicans had to decide how to cast their votes on certifying the Electoral College results. 

Even before the insurrection at the Capitol, Donald Trump, Jr. made the choice clear. Speaking to the crowd that had gathered in Washington, D.C., he said that those who were unwilling to fight for Trump should learn that “this isn’t their Republican Party anymore. This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party.” He went on to threaten primary challenges against anyone who didn’t display complete loyalty to his father.

Even more telling is that, according to journalist Gabriel Sherman, the president is happy that Republicans lost their Senate majority.

In recent days, as Trump’s bid to overturn the election became increasingly desperate, he expressed anarchist comments in private, a second Republican close to the White House told me. The Republican said Trump told people that he wanted David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to lose the Georgia Senate runoff election as a way of punishing them and Mitch McConnell. “Trump told people he is really angry that the senators and McConnell hadn’t stood up for him to challenge the election. He’s happy they lost.” According to the Republican, Trump has said he’ll be the most dominant force in Republican politics if there’s no party leadership.

After four years of kowtowing to the president, Republicans are learning that Donald Trump is willing to destroy them if they threaten his power and ego. 

Early Thursday morning, we got the first hint of how congressional Republicans would respond to this challenge. When it came time to vote on whether to certify Arizona’s electors, some who had vowed to challenge ballots from several states changed their minds. But six senators and 121 representatives sided with the president in challenging the outcome of the election. The New York Times has the list. Those are the Republicans who, even after the president incited an insurrection against Congress—forcing them to flee in terror—voted to proclaim that the GOP is Donald Trump’s party. Included is the Minority Leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy.

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