Amid GOP disgrace, Biden focuses on challenges
WASHINGTON –The Grand Old Party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan is in tatters in the wake of the odious obeisance of the Senate Republicans who closed their eyes to the iron-clad case House Democrats presented that Donald Trump incited the seditious riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
The spectacle in the Senate of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell castigating the former president as “practically and morally responsible” for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol, just after joining the GOP Senate majority to acquit him, marks a new low in the conscience of the 156-year history of the Republican Party.
McConnell, now its the most powerful federal officeholder after Trump’s removal by the voters, apparently believes he can have it both ways: feigning loyalty to the man’s broad support in the party ranks while personally disparaging him.
His success may depend on whether Trump can survive the double whammy of twin impeachments and maintain his hold on that cult loyalty, recasting the old ideologically conservative band into his own personal political vehicle.
It seems abundantly now that McConnell’s chances of enduring the current interval also will depend on whether Trump maintains his grip on his faithful following now that he is out of office. Without the megaphone of the Oval Office and the huge social media attention focused on the presidency over the last four years, the deposed president may be obliged to resort to even more inflammatory rhetoric and divisive actions, with uncertain political ramifications for himself.
Trump has already strongly indicated he is committed to a personal comeback in 2024. Whether he still has the political influence and energy to repeat his astounding 2016 presidential campaign will hang over the national landscape in the months and maybe years to come.
The question of Trump’s political viability will play out amid the aggressive efforts of President Joe Biden to restore the country’s desire for bipartisan comity and faith in democratic principles, as opposed to Trump’s authoritarian impulses.
Biden has conspicuously elected to steer clear of Trump’s obvious self-serving attempts to elbow his way back into the national political dialogue. He chose to let Congress to deal with him, as the new president concentrates laser-like on his own ambitious agenda amid major uncommon challenges.
They include, most pressingly, the continuing coronavirus pandemic. Biden has prioritized the distribution of effective vaccines, along with safely reopening of the nation’s economy after months of required lockdown.
Biden’s huge $9.1 trillion relief package focused on the most financially stricken families and businesses has already encountered strong partisan opposition to its scope and direction in Congress. While preaching his long-time commitment to working across the political aisle, the political reality of stiff Republican opposition has obliged him to play his own strong if not certain hand in determining the outcome.
Yet the stakes are so high for most Americans that public opinion may be on his side for now, and the recent Washington chaos over what seemed to many to be Donald Trump’s forced exit from the political scene to be only an intermission in that engaging but distracting drama.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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