Ride or die.
Support The Bulwark.
  Join Now

MAGA Mutiny in the GOP

The Trumpists and white nationalists have declared war on the institutional GOP. Can they all lose?
December 18, 2020
Featured Image
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives for a news conference with other Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on December 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tom Brenner-Pool/Getty Images)

After electors from all 50 states and D.C. met earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris for their victory. The MAGAverse went bananas: The deep-state coward McConnell had caved.

A Newsweek headline read, “QAnon Supporters Vow to Leave GOP After Mitch McConnell Accepts Election Result.” Kyle Becker, a conservative media figure formerly with Fox News, tweeted that McConnell had purposefully blocked election security bills (that much is true) to help rig the elections in Biden’s favor. President Trump himself tweeted to complain about “RINOS” who allowed “the Democrats to so blatantly cheat,” to which Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec responded, “Take over the party directly and remove all RINOs.” Julie Kelly, who has a history of blaming sexual abuse on the victim, tweeted, “these people do not deserve to keep power,” referring to congressional Republicans. She even appeared to endorse returning the Senate to Democratic control: “Demote them [congressional Republicans] then primary from place of weakness in 2022.” Fox News host Mark Levin also denounced McConnell and called for “fresh thinking and new blood.”

In this case, Twitter reflects real life. The Arizona and Texas Republican parties, both run by cranks, have been in a neck-and-neck race toward insanity. The Arizona GOP attacked the Republican governor, Doug Ducey, for certifying the election. In this endeavor, they were joined by the president himself, who lambasted Ducey, retweeting an account under the name “Paul A. Szypula, US Senate Candidate for NY in ’22” with the handle @Bubblebathgirl (so you know he’s serious):

On his radio show, former Trump White House official Seb Gorka issued a call to “drain the GOP.” His guest, newspaper-publisher/peer-of-the-realm/pardoned-felon/authentic-populist Conrad Black, called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, also a Republican Trump-ally-turned-target, a “Never Trump governor.” If only.

Ducey is rumored to be running for Senate in 2022, and Kemp is up for re-election that year. Arizona and Georgia are both now swing states, and both men need the base’s support. If the MAGAverse abandons them, their 2022 hopes could be over before they even launch their campaigns.

White nationalist provocateur Nick Fuentes held a rally in Washington, D.C., where the crowd chanted “destroy the GOP.” He has been tweeting along the same lines, calling for a boycott of the Senate races in Georgia.

In American Greatness, Kelly shared similar sentiments. There, too, she complained about McConnell, but she went further:

like so many battles over the past four years, the president is fighting with little support from Senate Republicans. Most seem ready if not eager for Trump to vacate the Oval Office so they can play ball with Biden…. there’s little reason to trust that this crop of Republican senators will provide a strong line of defense against the Biden/Harris team.

She exempted Sens. Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, and Rand Paul. They must be so proud.

On Tuesday, Johnson, chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, held a hearing on election fraud to show his loyalty. During the hearing, Paul said in the Senate that the elections were stolen. More infamously, Cruz offered to represent Texas’s bogus lawsuit before the Supreme Court. Johnson and Paul are both up for re-election in 2022 (although Johnson promised to retire after his second term and might run for governor instead), and Ted Cruz is likely gearing another shot at the White House in 2024.

The leaders of the Republican party made a bet: They staked the future of their party on their ability to have a transactional relationship with Trump, getting their judges and marginal policy victories, and in return looking the other way while Trump trampled everything they claimed to stand for. They stayed quiet to save their seats. The few outwardly Trump-hostile members of Congress, like Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker and Reps. Mia Love and Mark Sanford were all pushed out of their seats. Others, like Sen. Ben Sasse and Rep. Will Hurd, found a way to keep their true thoughts to themselves when speaking out mattered most.

The GOP thought that if they survive these four years, they could relax. But by accommodating Trump, they joined his revolution out of fear, and the revolution is now eating its own.

There is now an anti-GOP coalition on the right that wants the party to lose the Senate to send a message to the GOP. It includes Never Trumpers and the MAGAverse. But the truth is that Never Trumpers might want to burn it down, but they can’t. They are not radicalized revolutionaries. MAGA people are the real existential threat to the GOP. The question that Republicans face is how much longer loyalty to Trump will be the prerequisite for power in the party.

The question for everyone else is, if the MAGA lunatics succeed in commandeering the Republican party, will that doom it to electoral irrelevance at the national level? Or will, say, 74.3ish million Americans go along with it?

Shay Khatiri

Shay Khatiri is a graduate student of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. He grew up in Iran and left the country in 2011. He is currently seeking political asylum in the United States. Follow him @ShayKhatiri.