Juan Williams: GOP’s Trump fever begins to cool

What if Republicans win majorities in the House and Senate in the midterm elections and take control of Congress?

Get ready for Republicans to refuse to certify the 2024 presidential election unless former President Trump wins.

The chilling prospect of that kind of extremism in service to Trump is changing the outlook for the midterms.

{mosads}Voters will have a clear choice:

Door one: They can affirm American democracy.

Door two: They opt for a nation controlled by one man, in the style of Russia or China.

In the last week, the stark option led to fireworks inside the GOP.

It began with the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) absurd claim that the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was “legitimate political discourse.”

Trump has already said that if he returns to the White House he is willing to pardon the people convicted of mounting a violent attack on Congress to halt certification of President Biden’s election victory.

Democrats are happy to see the GOP defining itself as a party of Trump-led radicals — and one willing to do away with President Lincoln’s promise of preserving government of the people, by the people and for the people.

But Republicans outside of Trump’s cult are not smiling. They see flashing warnings of political disaster in relying on Trump’s extremist base. Recent revelations about Trump destroying documents while his aides attempted to claim voting machines and pressure the Justice Department to overturn the election are constant reminders of his autocratic impulses.

There is political risk here for the GOP.

Even among people who voted for Trump in 2020, 55 percent said they oppose pardons for the insurrectionists, according to a Morning Consult-Politico poll this month. And 68 percent of all voters said the same.

More telling, the percentage of Republicans who are blindly loyal to Trump is declining, according to polls.

The percentage of Republican voters who say they are foremost Trump supporters as opposed to supporters of the GOP has declined from 54 percent in late 2020 to 36 percent now, according to polling by Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies for NBC News.

That means a lower percentage of Republicans than before are likely to turn out for Trump-endorsed candidates willing to endorse political violence to undermine the legitimacy of elections.

This is good news for Democrats. They are facing a historical pattern of big losses in the midterms for the party that holds the White House.

It is bad news for Republicans who prefer an election defined by voters’ bad mood after two years of dealing with COVID-19 and now coping with the highest inflation rate in decades.

That’s why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) feels compelled to take on Trump. That’s why he condemned the RNC’s censure of Republicans on the House panel looking into the violence at the Capitol.

The RNC’s condemnation of Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) included the now infamous description of the insurrection as “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

McConnell, after meeting with his Republican caucus, pushed back hard, saying what took place was “a violent insurrection” and “we saw it happen.”

McConnell is free to speak because his political future is not tied to Trump.

Republican Senate candidates who repeat extremist lies about the 2020 election will struggle to win a statewide general election. If they do win, they are unlikely to support McConnell as their leader.

Trump weakly pushed back.

He said McConnell “does not represent the views of the vast majority of [Republican] voters.”

The RNC offered the same self-serving take. A spokeswoman argued that “our grass roots are very supportive” of condemning Cheney and Kinzinger. Criticism to the contrary, the spokeswoman added, was largely confined to “the D.C. bubble.”

But once again, polls indicate it is Trump and his RNC operatives who are not hearing voters.

“He still has a core of somewhere between one-third and 40% [of Republicans] that will vote for him no matter what,” Frank Luntz, the GOP focus group expert, told Jill Colvin of The Associated Press earlier this month. “But it is now a minority. It was the majority up until six months ago. But it is now the minority.”

Even when the GOP was mostly unified behind Trump, it lost control of the House, the Senate and the White House.

{mossecondads}The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board earlier this month blasted Trump as a “three-time election loser.” It added that public antipathy to Trump “cost the GOP the House in 2018, then the White House in 2020, and finally the two Georgia Senate seats in 2021.”

Even Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, sees his future as separate from the declining Trump base.

That’s why Pence felt free to say Trump “is wrong” to say the vice president has the right to “change the outcome of our election.”

In pure electoral terms, Trump is a fading factor.

Then there is growing support from Trump-defiant Senate Republicans to amend the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to bar future attempts to overturn elections.

Ambiguous wording in the act led insurrectionists to argue that Pence had the power to overturn the 2020 results.

The GOP’s Trump fever may not have broken.

But for the first time since 2016, I see it cooling as more Republicans realize what continued fealty to him will cost them in 2022, 2024 and beyond.

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

Tags 2022 midterm elections Adam Kinzinger Democracy Donald Trump Joe Biden Liz Cheney Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Republican Party trumpism

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