The Trump aftermath and the “not normal” future of the GOP

It’s time again for a political check-in with Stuart Shapiro. Amy Cobb returns as host to talk to Stuart about the current state of the Republican party and what the power struggle in the GOP means for the country. Stuart discusses the ouster of Liz Cheney from House leadership and the purging of all anti-Trump voices. They also discuss whether there will be any accountability for the January 6 siege on the Capitol. Taking a look toward the future, they end their discussion on the mid-term elections and what those results could mean for power and the political divide in Congress after 2022.

Stuart Shapiro
Welcome to EJB Talks. I’m Stuart Shapiro, the Associate Dean of Faculty at the Bloustein School. And the purpose of this podcast is to highlight the work my colleagues in the fields of policy, planning, and health are doing to make the world country and New Jersey a better place.

Today, we’re going to go back to talking politics, one of the things that originated this podcast, and my colleague, Amy Cobb, is going to step away from her production role to be an interviewer. And she’s going to talk to me about what’s going on in Washington, particularly as regards the Republican Party.

Amy Cobb
All right, so just jumping right in. I’ve noticed you’ve written about what happens to the Republican Party, as it currently is, is really actually the most important with regards to what’s happening for our country. But why is that?

Stuart Shapiro
So as everyone knows, we live in a two-party democracy. Maybe one day, there’ll be more viable parties. But right now we’ve got two of them. And that means that they’re going to trade power at different times, as we’ve seen repeatedly over the lifetimes of pretty much anyone listening to this podcast, that means the Republicans are going to come back in power at some point. And right now the republican party has morphed into a party that is not just against the Democrats, but against democracy, itself. And if you have a party that is opposed to democracy, take power. We have…we are seeing throughout the country, the kinds of things they will do, they will do whatever they need to hold on to power including stripping, voting rights, changing representation, changing the rules of democracy itself. If you want blueprints for how that works, check out Erdogan in Turkey, check out Orban in Hungary, there’s a playbook out there.

And so in terms of the long-term theme of our democracy, what happens to the Republican Party is critically important. The civil war that is to some degree going on there, although it’s more of a route than a civil war, to be honest, the outcome of that is going to determine what the Republican Party looks like the next time it takes power, whether that’s 2024 2028 2032 whenever and for the future of the country. Those of us that may not be Republicans, or conservative by nature, still need to care a great deal about what goes on in that party.

Amy Cobb
So speaking of what’s going on in the Republican Party currently, I think of one name right now, who surprises me that I agreed with her so much these last few weeks, and talking about Liz Cheney, in particular, which her being some kind of radical republican right now blows my mind. But what does her departure from leadership really mean?

Stuart Shapiro
So like you, this is probably the first time I’ve ever agreed with Cheney, Representative Cheney. And obviously, her stances, prompted much hand-wringing among those of us on left of center and do we be nice to her do we argue, you know, argue about everything she’s done throughout her career, which we oppose, and there’s plenty there to oppose, particularly if one thinks back to the actions of her father, as vice president as well. I’m in the camp, though, that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And right now Cheney is the most prominent voice within the Republican Party, calling out the anti-democratic tendencies spurred on by Trump, and echoed by many members of Congress. For that she was punished last week, she was stripped of her leadership role in the House of Representatives. She was the third leading figure in the Republican Party. And that was taken away from her and instead of giving to representative Elise Stefanik, of New York, who is much more willing to toe the Trump line.

What does that mean going forward? First of all, it’s a signal to anyone that if you dissent from the anti-democratic bent of the party, you will be purged. I mean, it has a very sort of purging feel to it and he is purged in terms of thinking about Stalin and other times historically, I mean, the Republican Party is purging dissenting voices. The second thing though is does to position Cheney as the leader of the anti-Trump, right, because there’s no questioning her conservative credentials. This is not a moderate like Adam Kinzinger from Illinois or those that have left the par with a government like Charlie Dent or are retiring like Rob Portman. Liz Cheney is a true blue conservative. And so her stance is saying, look, if there is a future for this party outside of Donald Trump, and stripping away voting rights, and things like that, then I met.

Now, I am very dubious that there is a future for this party outside of those things I mentioned. And so I think there’s something of a longshot aspect to Cheney’s maneuver there. But on the other hand, the pro-Trump forces very crowded, who will be the leader of that party, after Trump, if there isn’t after Trump is, is a very crowded field, Cheney now has the field within the party of being opposed to these things pretty much to herself. And so that is also the significance of what happened last week,

Amy Cobb
Just to build upon the Stefanik piece, I think they were comparing her voting record to Cheney, and surprisingly, she has a much more moderate voting record. So you have to assume she’s well aware of the political nature of what’s going on right now and doesn’t want to lose her seat, but the kind of scares you as a person in the public that they’d be willing to do go so far, even though she votes in a much more moderate way.

Stuart Shapiro
Right? Well, we should clarify terms here, I mean, on policy, Trump is, is in was in some ways more moderate than some of his Republican opponents in the 2016 primary, Ted Cruz, he was certainly more moderate than Cruz, and probably more so than Rubio. And Stefanik, in that sense, is very much a Trump Republican. But what the Trump wing represents more than conservatism, or moderation is sort of a post-policy mindset, where they don’t really care about policy, they care about power. And they care. When we can argue there are a few policy issues, like immigration and racial issues that they do seem to have very dangerous takes on. But for the most part, what the right tax level should be, or how we deal with climate change, or anything else. It’s about owning the whips. It’s not about policy outcomes in any sense.

And so in that sense, Stefanik is an outstanding avatar of Trump, and she comes from an area of New York state, that it makes sense that she would be so but rather a view that they want their cast to hold on to power and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to do so. And if that involves conservative policy outcomes, great if that involves moderate policy outcomes. Great. The policy is irrelevant here. And that’s the key feature. I mean, Kevin McCarthy, you know, for all I hated Paul Ryan, you know, Paul Ryan had thoughts, Paul Ryan had ideas about the way that government should function. He was an Ayn Rand disciple. Kevin McCarthy does not seem to have any policy preferences whatsoever. And as such, he too was quite a fitting leader of a Trumpist party.

Amy Cobb
Okay, well, that’s gonna lead into something else that may press me a little bit more.

Stuart Shapiro
You’re asking for it!

Amy Cobb
Why not? Um, so we’re talking about, I’m going to go back all the way to January 6, with which to me seems, you know, might as well been two years ago. And increasingly, it feels like it’s too far away for any accountability for January 6 really take place, and even seems farther away. Now. Since the, you know, Cheney’s done so what, if any accountability, I know they’re gonna have they’re working on or they have the commission now in the house that they’re trying to set it up like they had the 911 Commission? But is that even going to take anything seriously, or is that going to go anywhere?

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah, I mean, I do think that attorney general Merrick Garland is taking this very seriously. And the number of arrests has been impressive and the number of court cases they are filing are impressive, but these are not easy cases to prosecute. I mean, Are you know if people were just protesting even if they were protesting something ridiculous like the results of the election, they have the right to do that freedom of speech is the first amendment for goodness sakes. And so you have to find incidents of actual violence or incitement to violence in order to do successful prosecutions. And I found confident Garland’s very smart, the people he has, they’re very smart, they’re gonna get they’re gonna get convictions to some degree. So there’ll be some accountability now whether there’s accountability for the Donald Trump’s the Josh follies of the world, that much more dubious about and I think the 911 Commission is a is an endeavor to do that. There are some Republicans on board representatives like Kitson, guard catco and Cheney, Senators like Romney and I would bet eventually Rakowski will back if, but it’s going to be a very dicey dance to get something passed through Congress and establish and I’m hopeful, but I am by no means confident. At the same time. One thing that’s very dismaying is the number of representatives last week that were just out now whining about January 6, the fact that they were saying things like it was tourists. There was no violence. They are the only people hurt were Trump supporters, it was an Tifa, that that was really the problem. All of those things are so far outside the factual record. And to have not just a Marjorie Taylor green, you know, there’s always going to be a least one, you know, Congress person that’s really out there, but they have about half a dozen to a dozen of them spouting that stuff. It’s like they took they got rid of Steve King, but when you cut off his head, you created, you know, 1212 acolytes there. And so it’s it’s very difficult to to stomach the presence of that degree of individuals outside the factual record. They’re in Congress.

Amy Cobb
Yeah, you kind of wish they would just be to the point where we’re, you know, oh, we just need to move on, which a lot of them had said for a while now. Now. It’s just

Stuart Shapiro
as a polling is that position is it’s not nearly as bad as the one we heard voices in hearings last week. Great. Well, let’s

Amy Cobb
move on to something that’s going to make me feel so much better. The midterms? I don’t even know if I want to ask you about the midterms. But I’m going to Anyway, what does what’s the sense of the midterms coming up? Should we be worried about seats and number of seats? Or do you think it’s going to be relatively status quo for right now?

Stuart Shapiro
So it’s all still a long way away, as you noted, I mean, it is still 18 months 17 I’ve

Amy Cobb
never seen that far anymore with election

Stuart Shapiro
right away. And we will have a much better picture of things, you know, six months to a year from now. You know, right now, if you feel compelled to make predictions or feel compelled to bed, I would say that the republicans are definitely favourites to take the house back. The Senate is much harder to predict. I mean, it may be the democrats are slight favourites to hold on to the Senate. But it’s probably too too early to say incumbent parties always do bad at midterm elections. There are one or two exceptions 1998 2002. But between redistricting and retirements, it’s hard to imagine that this will be an exception, though it might not be terrible. It might not be a 2010 or 2018 route, where the party in power loses 40 seats. I think there’s every reason to believe that’s not what we’ll see. But certainly you would expect Republicans to have the advantage. The one thing that helps the democrat democrats is that the map in the Senate is pretty favorable for them in terms of who seats are going to be up for election. And that’s why I say their chances of keeping the senate are definitely better than keeping the house.

Amy Cobb
Finally, you know, I like to talk about the democrats themselves. What can they do what, maybe not about the elections, but what can they do in the next 18 months. And even in the next few months to make a positive shift, positive change, keep momentum going.

Stuart Shapiro
So in terms of what’s going on in the Republican Party, they are fairly helpless. In that know, it’s they did what you know, to the Nancy Pelosi praise Liz Cheney, you know, which I doubt she was surprised to find yourself doing as you and I were And so, so I do think they’re, they’re they’re saying the right things as far as what’s going on within the Republican Party. And the fact of the matter is, I don’t think you’ll loosen the trumpets grip until they have a major electoral defeat, and they did not have one in 2020. Well, nobody thinks the election was stolen, you know, that has, you know, is really sort of following the news, the election was close, and Republicans picked up seats in the House. And so it was not a message that would lead the republican party to, to abandon Trump and the and the ideas, such as they are that he represents. So what the democrats would need to do is they need to win big and the path toward winning big is being successful over the next year and a half, or even three and a half years to build an economy that is producing jobs, to build an economy that is spreading prosperity more broadly. Those are the things they have to do. And they have to do so obviously, in the in the face of Republican opposition in Congress, which has been proven to be pretty, pretty adamant. That said, You know, I think there are a lot of reasons to think the economy is looking up quite a bit. If the American Job plan or the American families plan, if they pass to some degree, even if you don’t get, you know, 90 of what’s in them, that will help ensure that the gains from this growing economy are spread more equally, when people are economically secure and happy, they are more likely to support the party in power that produced that. And so that’s that Biden is completely right, in focusing on those things as his priority, because there’s not much he can do about the Republican Party right now.

Amy Cobb
Well, as always Stu….((laughing)) always such an uplifting conversation, although I think maybe Democrats have learned a lesson to just forge ahead right now. Just get the things done. They need to get done. I’m hoping.

Stuart Shapiro
Yeah.

Amy Cobb
Look, I’m being hopeful! That’s not typical for me. Usually, I’m a negative person!

Stuart Shapiro
I think so I think you probably need some sleep. Well, thank you, Amy for stepping up and doing the interviewing. We’ll be back next week with another talk from another expert at the Bloustein School. Until then, stay safe.