This week saw a poor jobs report, the east coast out of gas, unnerving inflation numbers, and terrorist rockets exploding in Israel. But for much of the press, the top story of the week was the battle in the House over Liz Cheney.
This is not surprising. The news of the week, on balance, painted a bad picture of President Biden. The Cheney story, by contrast, painted Republicans as divided. Worse, the Cheney story allowed the press to paint Republicans as conspiracy theorists attacking Cheney as the lone voice against the idea of a stolen 2020 election. The truth, it seems, is a little more complicated.
The press wants Republicans divided. They want Republicans to lose and they will continue to emphasize divisions among them. We conservatives, therefore, have no other choice than to face the pro-Trump / never-Trump division.
It has been widely reported that in the 2020 election Trump got more votes than any previous Republican candidate. He did bring in new voters with his populist message. He also drove away some Republican voters and drove a record turnout of Democrat voters. Writing for National Review, Dan McLaughlin notes that Trump “ended up as the first president since Herbert Hoover to lose the House, the Senate, and the White House in a single term”. And the events since election day 2020 have made it even more difficult to argue that Trump is an electoral asset at this point.
The narrative that Trump incited an insurrection is preposterous. I heard what he said that day and I watched the live coverage of what happened. It wasn’t an insurrection, it was a riot, and Trump didn’t tell anyone to break into the Capitol. But for Democrats and the press, he will forever be the cause of the events of January 6th.
The narrative that the election was stolen is much more complicated. After the election, we saw several prominent and well-respected Republican lawyers say there were mountains of indisputable evidence that Trump won and the election was stolen. It is not difficult to understand why, in light of this, so many believed the narrative initially. As it turns out, all these months later, no one can produce this evidence. Prominent Republicans repeating this narrative, without seeing this alleged evidence themselves, were acting irresponsibly. In addition, Republicans in congress objecting to the election results allowed the news media to characterize them as conspiracy theorists. And this is where (the most recent) battle with Cheney started. Were there irregularities in the election? Were people cheating? Yes. Were these irregularities sufficient to change the result? No – or at the least, doubtful.
Trump’s critics (from the Democrats to the press to the never-Trump Republicans) made it a constant, nauseating habit to criticize Trump unfairly. They would accuse him of racist remarks when he said nothing about race. They would criticize him regarding topics he had nothing to do with. It was constant, all day, every day, for years. Were the Liz Cheneys and Mitt Romneys unnecessarily critical when they could have shown more party unity? I believe they were.
But Trump and the pro-Trump Republicans were also unfairly critical of some prominent Republicans. Trump in particular was prone to name-calling when it wasn’t necessary. I surmise that most never-Trump Republicans objected to Trump primarily for his demeanor. Calling a fellow Republican a loser when you could simply have said you disagree did not help. Trump pissed a lot of people off unnecessarily.
Even conservative critics agreed that Trump governed as a conservative, with the notable exception of trade policy.
The press loves this, all of it.
Is it possible, in the run-up to the 2016 election, that the mainstream press gave Trump so much free advertising because they knew Hilary Clinton was such a poor candidate that they reasoned Trump was the only one in the Republican field that could lose to her? If so, was their miscalculation that Trump was a better candidate than they thought, or was it that Hilary was worse than they thought?
Is it merely a coincidence that the press spent so much time this week on Liz Cheney?
The New York Times ran an article this week with the headline “Over 100 Republicans, including former officials, threaten to split from the G.O.P.” A potential third party. Historically, the party that “splits” is guaranteed to lose. The press would love to see the Republicans split. With the mounting count of crises and disasters in Biden’s first months in office, if something doesn’t change and change quickly, the odds that a Democrat will win the White House in 2024 are almost nil. A split Republican party may be their only hope.
How Trump will figure into Republican politics in the coming months and years is largely up to him. But this division within Republican ranks is our own doing. We’re hurting ourselves, and the press is more than happy to help us along.
Zach Montague, Over 100 Republicans, including former officials, threaten to split from the G.O.P., The New York Times, May 11, 2021.
Dan McLaughlin, A Response to Bad-Faith Arguments about Trump and Republican Strategy, National Review, May 11, 2021.
A Call for American Renewal