Republicans, please save your party

Republicans, please save your party

President TrumpDonald TrumpMajority of Americans in new poll say it would be bad for the country if Trump ran in 2024 ,800 bottle of whiskey given to Pompeo by Japan is missing Liz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party MORE’s address last weekend to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in which he publicly identified his opponents, had all the charm and grace of another speech given in 1979, by Saddam Hussein, in Baghdad. 

If you have not seen that speech, let me set the scene. On July 22, 1979, Hussein, who had just been installed as Iraq’s president, addressed senior officials of the Ba’ath Party. “Address” is actually too delicate a description. It was a verbal (and afterwards, literal) firing squad. After announcing he had uncovered a conspiracy to overthrow him, he had a Ba’ath leader take the stage and identify 50 people by name in the audience who he claimed were co-conspirators. One by one, each man was escorted from the room by uniformed guards.

Give Hussein credit — he knew how to hold his audience. When he dramatically dabbed the faux tears from his eyes with a handkerchief, a flurry of white handkerchiefs rippled across the audience. At one point, someone rose to his feet, chanting “Long live Saddam!” The entire audience — what was left of it anyway — erupted in a heartfelt chorus.

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I am not comparing Trump to Hussein. But the former president’s speech in Florida was built on the same principles: publicly purge your opponents from the ranks, use fear to erase doubt and demand slavish loyalty from your followers.   

Trump called out Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Trump asks court to block release of tax returns to Congress | Private sector adds 330K jobs in July, well short of expectations Senate panel advances first three spending bills McConnell lays out GOP demands for government-funding deal MORE (R-Ky.), questioning his own endorsement of the Senate Republican leader. He called Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyLiz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party Ohio special election: A good day for Democrats 58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll MORE (R-Wyo.) "a warmonger, a person that loves seeing our troops fighting"; and Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE (R-Utan) “grandstander”. His list also included Sens. Ben SasseBen SasseWhite House cyber chief backs new federal bureau to track threats Sasse calls China's Xi a 'coward' after Apple Daily arrest Defunct newspaper's senior editor arrested in Hong Kong MORE (R-Neb.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSeven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill Senate starts infrastructure debate amid 11th-hour drama The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-N.C.), Bill CassidyBill CassidyGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Optimism grows that infrastructure deal will get to Biden's desk MORE (R-La.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiKaine says he has votes to pass Iraq War repeal in Senate Ohio special election: A good day for Democrats Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate MORE (R-Alaska), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Penn.), Reps. Tom RiceHugh (Tom) Thompson RicePro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising Cheney, Kinzinger are sole GOP votes for Jan. 6 select committee The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE (R-S.C.), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerLiz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party 58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE (R-Ill.), Dan NewhouseDaniel (Dan) Milton NewhouseBiden administration stokes frustration over Canada Cheney, Kinzinger are sole GOP votes for Jan. 6 select committee Progressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill MORE (R-Wash.), Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezSix takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Pro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising Governors' races see flood of pro-Trump candidates MORE (R-Ohio), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonEquilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — West Coast wildfires drive East Coast air quality alerts OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Western wildfires prompt evacuations in California, Oregon| House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Granholm announces new building energy codes House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water MORE (R-Mich.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerHouse passes spending bill to boost Capitol Police and Hill staffer pay Latina lawmakers discuss efforts to increase representation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 MORE (R-Wash.), Peter MeijerPeter MeijerFormer longtime Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87 Michigan GOP executive director quits under pressure from Trump allies Cheney, Kinzinger are sole GOP votes for Jan. 6 select committee MORE (R-Mich.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoGOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing Senators introduce bipartisan bill to secure critical groups against hackers House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role MORE (R-N.Y.) and David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoPro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising Cheney, Kinzinger are sole GOP votes for Jan. 6 select committee Progressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill MORE (R-Calif.). 

Conservatives such as Kinzinger, Sasse and others worry many Democrats. 

I will confess: from an entirely partisan perspective, the toughest opponents for Democrats are the Kinzinger’s, Romney’s and Cheney’s. They are true conservatives who remind American voters that they are in politics — not for power alone — but the power of their ideas, including balanced budgets, the dignity of work, the power of innovation in free markets. They are conservatives who support traditionally conservative approaches to policy — incremental and thoughtful and partisan but not populist.

Watching Trump’s speech last Sunday may have delighted Democrats. It may be in my own party’s long term electoral interests to stand back during an ugly Republican purge; to watch a GOP fratricide that induces ugly primaries and alienates moderate voters; to sit in the stands and hoot at the gladiatorial combat between Trump and McConnell and the 16 others on his enemies list. On the other hand, America will be worse off. We need two parties competing on rational ideas; not one party and one nihilistic movement steeped in conspiracy theories and based on idol worship rather than ideas. You know what I mean — the kind who would display a six-foot golden statue in Trump’s image at the CPAC event.

A two party system needs, well, two parties. And a political party requires leaders who can instill discipline in the ranks to advance the set of ideas that attract voters. Trump’s speech on Sunday confirms that he does not seek to rebuild the GOP; instead, he seeks to remake it in his craven image. To borrow a republican phrase, he wants to “repeal and replace” — jettison any Republican who questions him and replace them with those who promise an unquestioned loyalty to his persona. It may have worked for Hussein and the Ba’ath Party in 1979 — it should not work for Trump in America in 2021. Republicans, please save your party.  

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelAmerica's pandemic of COVID hypocrisy Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE represented New York in the House over eight terms and was chairman with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can follow his updates @RepSteveIsrael.