A fractured Republican party battles it out under Trump’s shadow

This goes far deeper than congressional politics

The comic geniuses at "Saturday Night Live" must have racked their brains, but they couldn’t find a single way to make fun of Joe Biden.

As the NBC show returned from hiatus, and from four years of Alec Baldwin vilifying Donald Trump, the cast went after the likes of Rand Paul and Marjorie Taylor Greene, but no Joe. Perhaps the new president will be deemed too dull to warrant late-night mockery, making "SNL" like most other comedy shows that love to skewer the right.

It’s a small example, but one that helps explain why Trump supporters have such deep distrust of a media, cultural, and entertainment establishment that they believe views them with disdain.

That’s why it’s crucial, in these polarized times, it’s important to make distinctions.

With Trump’s impeachment trial--and its inevitable acquittal--starting next week, the Democrats, and some in the media, will try to make the entire Republican Party complicit in the Capitol riot. That’s what the Senate exercise is really about.

At the top of the list, it’s clearly legitimate to question whether Trump incited the Jan. 6 riot (as even Mitch McConnell says), or whether he just summoned and whipped up a large crowd of protesters but did not want it to storm the Capitol. (This is separate from the strange process of trying to convict a president who has already left office.)

Next on the list are the 136 congressional Republicans who, even after the siege, voted to reject the Electoral College certification of Joe Biden’s victory. They were supporting fraud claims that could not be proven in the courts or by Trump’s Justice Department. But they argue that they condemn the insurrection and did not want to change their votes because of the mob violence. It goes way too far to say, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did to Ted Cruz, that he practically had her murdered.

And then there are the 74 million Trump voters, many of whom believe the stolen-election rhetoric. Some may have cheered on the rioters. But most are law-abiding citizens who do not condone violence.

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Tarring the opposition party is a common political maneuver. When Roy Moore, accused of sexual misconduct with young girls, was running for the Senate from Alabama, Democrats tried to make every Republican defend him. When Al Franken was accused of a different level of sexual misbehavior, Republicans tried to make every Democrat defend him until he resigned.

Now it’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman congresswoman with a history of endorsing violence against Democrats and strange conspiracy theories, who the Dems want to make the face of the GOP. How can the party not condemn someone whose Facebook page liked the idea of shooting Nancy Pelosi in the head? Kevin McCarthy has given the Democrats an opening by saying merely that he’ll talk to Greene, in contrast to the sizable number of House Republicans who want to strip Liz Cheney of her leadership post for voting for impeachment.

And another GOP colleague, Trump ally Matt Gaetz, flew to Wyoming to lead a rally against her. (In another chess move, McConnell, though from the upper chamber, told CNN yesterday that Cheney had the "courage" to act on her "deep convictions"--while ripping Greene’s "loony lies" as a "cancer for the Republican Party." Quite a diagnosis.)

But this goes far deeper than congressional politics. In Oregon, the state party approved a resolution calling the Capitol siege a "false flag" operation "designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans." That, of course, is a lie.

And the Arizona GOP formally censured the state’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who refused to challenge Biden’s win in the state, along with ex-senator Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain.

RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel, a Trump ally now trying to keep the peace, told the New York Times that Greene’s comments were "atrocious" and that the Oregon resolution should be condemned. But she would only go so far."If you have a family dispute, don’t go on ‘Jerry Springer,’" McDaniel said. "Do it behind closed doors. It’s my role to call them and explain that if we don’t keep our party united and focused on 2022, we will lose."

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This is the dilemma. Trump remains the overwhelming leader of the GOP, and right now looks like he can mobilize a successful primary challenge to any Republican who crosses him. Yet some more traditional Republicans want the party to move on, believing that many of the Trumpists who win primaries in 2022 won’t have enough mainstream appeal in the general election.

This is what a fractured party looks like. And since two healthy parties are better for America, the country remains fractured as well.