Republicans, please save your party

Republicans, please save your party

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix 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 McConnellHouse Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines Has Trump beaten the system? MORE (R-Ky.), questioning his own endorsement of the Senate Republican leader. He called Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Tokyo Olympics kick off with 2020-style opening ceremony The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements MORE (R-Wyo.) "a warmonger, a person that loves seeing our troops fighting"; and Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTransit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal Schumer leaves door open for second vote on bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (R-Utan) “grandstander”. His list also included Sens. Ben SasseBen SasseSasse calls China's Xi a 'coward' after Apple Daily arrest Defunct newspaper's senior editor arrested in Hong Kong Murkowski: Trump has 'threatened to do a lot' to those who stand up to him MORE (R-Neb.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrBipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Bipartisan group to issue 'promising' statement on infrastructure path forward First responders shouldn't have to tackle tigers MORE (R-N.C.), Bill CassidyBill CassidyBipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor The Hill's Morning Report - High-profile COVID-19 infections spark new worries GOP centrists call on Schumer to delay infrastructure vote MORE (R-La.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTransit funding, broadband holding up infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - Infrastructure vote fails; partisan feud erupts over Jan. 6 panel Senate falling behind on infrastructure MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiWhy Biden's Interior Department isn't shutting down oil and gas Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor 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 KinzingerKey Biden ally OK with dropping transit from infrastructure package The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements 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 BeutlerDemocrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee MORE (R-Wash.), Peter MeijerPeter MeijerMichigan GOP executive director quits under pressure from Trump allies Cheney, Kinzinger are sole GOP votes for Jan. 6 select committee White House backs repeal of 2002 war authorization MORE (R-Mich.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoSenators introduce bipartisan bill to secure critical groups against hackers House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role McCarthy yanks all GOP picks from Jan. 6 committee 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. IsraelLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer Joe Manchin's secret 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.