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Juan Williams: Trump is feasting on a dying GOP

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Watching President Trump’s conspiracy-mongering about his defeat in last month’s presidential election, I flashed back to something former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in 2018.

“There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump Party,” Boehner said. “The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

Or is it a dying political party?

{mosads}The last rites started a month ago. Trump lost the presidential race to Joe Biden, including a stunning defeat in Georgia, a state dominated by Republicans for nearly 30 years.

The wheezing death rattle for the GOP continued this past weekend.

Trump arrived in Georgia to campaign for two Senate Republicans facing runoff elections on Jan. 5, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

But his message twisted his knife into the Republicans.

After weeks of saying the presidential election was rigged in Georgia and elsewhere, Trump spent most of his rally ranting his baseless grievances and telling his fans not to accept his loss because Democrats “steal and rig and lie.”

So, why should Republicans vote in those races if they believe Trump’s claim that the presidential election was rigged?

That makes no sense unless he is trying to get the party to kill itself.

One Republican voter in Georgia pointedly asked Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel during a recent visit why the party’s supporters should put money and work into the election when “it’s already [been] decided?”

That voter is understandably confused by Trump. But Trump’s message is echoed by his leading supporters.

“Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election?” said Trump-boosting attorney Lin Wood at a Georgia “Stop the Steal” rally last week.

But what if this backstabbing among Republicans makes sense to Trump?

What if Trump’s lie that the election was stolen is fatal to the GOP but gives him new life with an infusion of money from the hard-right conspiracy crowd, the most gullible Republicans?

Then there is a method to the madness.

Here’s the proof that Trump may be on to something.

Enough Republicans swallowed Trump’s bait to send him more than $170 million in the month after he led them to defeat.

That money went to an entity described on the Trump campaign website as the “Official Election Defense Fund.” But according to The Washington Post, “there is no such account.”

As one former Biden aide told The New York Times, this is “plain and simple grift.”

In fact, 75 percent of the money goes to a new Trump political action committee brashly labeled “Save America.” The paper reports the money will pay for things like Trump’s future “staff and travel.” The remaining 25 percent goes to the Republican National Committee.

{mossecondads}Meanwhile, the GOP in Georgia is struggling to stay alive as a party due to Trump’s attacks.

He recently demanded Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) should “call off [the] election” and said Kemp allowed his “state to be scammed.” Trump also phoned Kemp, on the morning of the president’s rally in the state, encouraging the governor to call a special session of the state legislature. Trump apparently hoped that GOP legislators would then appoint electors to the Electoral College who would subvert the election result in Georgia.

Trump also told his followers that Georgia’s secretary of state, lifelong Republican Brad Raffensperger, is an “enemy of the people.”

Gabriel Sterling, a Republican elections official who works for Raffensperger, reported that Trump’s threatening language led to a death threat against an election worker.

“It has to stop — Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language … I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have right now over this. Every American, every Georgian, Republican and Democrat alike, should have the same level of anger.”

But because so many conservative voters are spellbound by Trump’s tricks, there is silence among top Republican elected officials, the very people who should be protecting the GOP brand.

It is amazing that Loeffler and Purdue remain silent in the face of killing blows to the party. The two Georgia senators have yet to clearly say that Trump lost a fair election, for fear of antagonizing him.

Their silence fits with the failure to speak out from other GOP senators.

“Yes, Donald Trump is an asshole,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told Mark Becker, a former Republican county chairman in Wisconsin, according to a piece Becker wrote for The Bulwark last week.

Yes, Trump lost there, too. But, in Becker’s account, Johnson fears it would be political suicide to stand up and point out publicly that Trump is hurting the party.

In Georgia, the Senate candidates are also weak.

Both Loeffler and Perdue are under scrutiny over whether they might have violated federal law when they engaged in large, suspiciously timed stock deals around the time the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. full force earlier this year.

The GOP’s control of the Senate hinges on these subpar candidates hanging on, even while Trump blasts the legitimacy of the election process.

It’s a perfect, deadly storm — of Republicans’ own making.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags 2020 presidential election Boehner Brian Kemp Conservatism David Perdue Donald Trump Georgia Senate race Joe Biden John Boehner Kelly Loeffler Republican Party Ron Johnson Ronna McDaniel

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