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The GOP clings to Trump

By Jules Witcover

As former President Donald Trump struggles to remain politically relevant, his access to social-media megaphones has dwindled, most notably with Twitter banning Trump from its popular outlet.

But some cable TV news outlets are continuing to offer his fact-sparse rants to a considerable audience of believers, particularly in the Republican Party. They feed his hope that there will remain enough of them to keep the Grand Old Party on comfort relief as it also struggles to survive Trump’s current crisis.

In addition to his trademark serial lying on everything from soup to nuts, Trump strives to cash in on old-fashioned racial hate and animosity, as well as rampant public ignorance among the gullible.

In doing so, he often succeeds in blurring or overwhelming the traditional GOP concern about, and opposition to, massive deficit spending — now a clear undertaking in the agenda of new President Joe Biden. It is manifested in everything from Biden’s response to the economic lockdown forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to his massive infrastructure rebuilding across the country.

Reasonable observers might have expected that Biden’s decision to go big, after predecessor Barack Obama had elected to go much smaller on his own domestic agenda overseen then by Vice President Biden, would have rallied old Republicans in Congress to stand firm against him. But the lure of heavy cash in every citizen’s pocket may prove irresistible to voters of both major parties.

So Trump’s obvious response is to continue to peddle his mixed bag of snake oil and pipe dreams to both the casual knee-jerk supporters and the informed GOP members of Congress still willingly clinging to his coattails to stay in office.

It is a sad commentary on the state of the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan that it has fallen to the level of Trump in his own embrace of such dishonest racial and cultural pitches to remain relevant in the current shabby circumstances of American democracy under fire.

Instead of the emergence of new faces in the party offering a credible alternative to Trump, legislators such as Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a modern-day version of rabble-rousing Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, are elbowing their way to the Republican forefront.

At the same time, the decent and honorable Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, continues to put a reasonable face on the party, with little prospect of putting it back on its old track as the embodiment of solid if somewhat colorless true conservatism.

So for now at least, the Grand Old Party seems destined for another period of inconsequential Trumpism. Unintentionally, it may be paving the way for what Biden observers have labeled “an FDR-style presidency” of public works and social works, akin to the 1930s taming of the Great Depression.

Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at juleswitcovercomcast.net.

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