The GOP Completes Its Surrender

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Written By Pinang Driod

Nearly a decade into the Donald Trump phenomenon, Republicans are still finding new ways to abase themselves.

Consider Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the No. 3 Republican in the House. If the name is familiar, that could be because for a fleeting moment in October, it looked like Emmer might become the next speaker. Kevin McCarthy had been unceremoniously tossed from the role, in a charge led by Trump allies. Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan had both fallen short. Emmer emerged as a potential compromise solution for a tired caucus.

Then Trump took to the phones, calling members to whip them against the majority whip, whom he viewed as insufficiently loyal. Among the complaints: Emmer had voted to certify the 2020 election of Joe Biden, and he had not yet endorsed Trump’s 2024 race. Emmer quickly realized he couldn’t win and decided to drop out. “He’s done. It’s over. I killed him,” Trump crowed, according to Politico.

On Wednesday, Emmer announced that he was backing Trump: “It’s time for Republicans to unite behind our party’s clear frontrunner, which is why I am proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for President.” Trump once again relished the moment privately, according to The New York Times: “They always bend the knee,” he reportedly told someone.

Trump has an endless memory for grudges. Emmer has either no such memory or no self-respect, or perhaps he lacks both. At least he’s not alone in indignity. Scalise, whom Trump conspicuously didn’t back for the speakership, also endorsed Trump on Wednesday. And McCarthy, in one of his final acts as an elected official before resigning, endorsed the man who had refused to rescue his speakership.

Congress isn’t the only site of surrender. The Washington Post reported this week that the Club for Growth, an older-school conservative fiscal group that has been one of the few staunch holdouts against Trump, is giving in. The group “has contacted Trump advisers looking for a détente, according to people familiar with the overtures. The organization shelved its efforts to try to stop him in the fall,” per the Post.

The fact of these recent Trump endorsements is less notable than their timing. Emmer’s case is particularly striking, because bowing to Trump three months ago might have helped him get the gavel. But he and other congressional bigwigs maintained that their position as leaders in the Republican Party meant that it would be improper for them to wade into the primary. Even if they liked Trump (which in Emmer’s case seems ambiguous; McCarthy, outwardly loyal, recently described his relationship with Trump as “honest,” which is both amusing and almost certainly untrue), they said, they simply couldn’t take sides until the primary was over. Except, of course, now they have, though not a single primary ballot has been cast and not a single caucus has been held.

The submission is reminiscent of the dynamics of the 2016 presidential race, when the GOP establishment resisted Trump until his nomination was inevitable. But eight years ago, Trump’s first major endorsements from party figures didn’t come until Chris Christie and Jeff Sessions backed him at the end of February. This time around, some high-profile Republicans tried to hold off again, hoping that Trump would falter but declining to do anything to make that happen, for fear of the sort of vengeance that Emmer had already experienced. But Trump is in a more dominant position, and sooner than he was in 2016, and anyone watching Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis run futile, self-defeating rope-a-dope strategies against Trump can see that they’re unlikely to beat him.

In a purely strategic sense, figures such as Emmer and Scalise and the Club for Growth may be making a canny choice. If Trump is going to win anyway, they stand to gain more by endorsing him before the primaries, so they can tell him or his supporters that they got in early, before the votes had been cast. That might earn them some goodwill with him, and grant them more influence if he wins the White House back. As short-term politics, that’s a pretty smart calculation—but Faust made a pretty good deal in the short term too.


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