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Republicans, please save your party

Republicans, please save your party

President TrumpDonald TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' 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 McConnellMcConnell vents over 'fake news' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Trump looking 'beyond seriously' at 2024 run MORE (R-Ky.), questioning his own endorsement of the Senate Republican leader. He called Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyCheney on Trump going to GOP retreat in Florida: 'I haven't invited him' RNC raises nearly M in record off-year March donations Republicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' MORE (R-Wyo.) "a warmonger, a person that loves seeing our troops fighting"; and Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Mark Halperin hired by bipartisan policy group No Labels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP draws line on taxes; nation braces for Chauvin verdict MORE (R-Utan) “grandstander”. His list also included Sens. Ben SasseBen SasseOn The Money: Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl | Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term | Left-leaning group raises concerns about SALT cap repeal Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban MORE (R-Neb.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term A proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US Former Gov. Pat McCrory enters GOP Senate race in North Carolina MORE (R-N.C.), Bill CassidyBill CassidyBottom line Calls grow for national paid family leave amid pandemic Senators urge Energy chief to prioritize cybersecurity amid growing threats MORE (R-La.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins joins Democrats in bid to undo Trump methane emissions rollback Biden dispatches Cabinet members to sell infrastructure plan Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump: GOP candidates need to embrace 'make America great' agenda if they want to win Republicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats MORE (R-Alaska), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (R-Penn.), Reps. Tom RiceHugh (Tom) Thompson RiceRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Trump doubles down on endorsement of South Carolina GOP chair Forget Trump's behavior — let's focus on the GOP and America's future MORE (R-S.C.), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerHouse passes legislation to elevate cybersecurity at the State Department Republicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' GOP struggles to rein in nativism MORE (R-Ill.), Dan NewhouseDaniel (Dan) Milton NewhouseRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Overnight Energy: Progressives fear infrastructure's climate plans won't survive Senate | EPA to propose vehicle emissions standards by July's end | Poll shows growing partisan divide on climate change House Republicans who backed Trump impeachment warn Democrats on Iowa election challenge MORE (R-Wash.), Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Personal security costs for anti-Trump lawmakers spiked post-riot Trump digs in on attacks against Republican leaders MORE (R-Ohio), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOvernight Energy: Michigan reps reintroduce measure for national 'forever chemicals' standard |  White House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill Mark Ruffalo joins bipartisan lawmakers in introducing chemical regulation bill Michigan reps reintroduce measure for national 'forever chemicals' standard MORE (R-Mich.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Lawmakers urge Capitol Police release IG report on riot House Republicans who backed Trump impeachment warn Democrats on Iowa election challenge MORE (R-Wash.), Peter MeijerPeter MeijerRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost GOP lawmaker 'encouraged' by Biden's Afghanistan strategy University of Michigan regent, who chairs state GOP, censured over 'witches' comment MORE (R-Mich.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoRepublicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' Top House Republicans ask Harris for meeting on border Personal security costs for anti-Trump lawmakers spiked post-riot MORE (R-N.Y.) and David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Valadao gives Gaetz donation to victims of abuse House Republicans who backed Trump impeachment warn Democrats on Iowa election challenge 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. IsraelWhite House races clock to beat GOP attacks Overnight Defense: Biden's stalled Pentagon nominee gets major support | Blinken presses China on North Korea ahead of meeting | Army will not return medals to soldier Trump pardoned Former national security officials back stalled Pentagon nominee 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.