Republicans say they’re just humoring Trump — but conservative fears they’ll never be brave enough to leave him
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump (Photo: Screen capture)

So far, Republicans appear to be continuing their support of President Donald Trump and his conspiracy theories that he actually won the 2020 election, despite failing to secure several states he won in 2016. It's something that conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin worries won't end even after Trump is gone.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is demanding justice for Trump. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), as usual, is hedging her bets, releasing a statement saying that Trump deserves to use the legal process to dispute any votes he wants. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor to proclaim Trump deserves his day in court. Trump has since lost every lawsuit he's attempted but one, the suit asking if Republican ballot observers can stand closer to the table.

But behind the scenes, Republicans are saying that they're just "humoring Trump," by letting him come to the realization that he lost on his own time. Going that route makes it less likely that Trump will sabotage the Republican candidates in the Georgia runoff, Rubin explained.

"Then again, maybe the Republicans play along out of fear of the MAGA crowd’s fury," she wrote. "Not to worry, we are told. Soon it will be settled, and Republicans will move on. The fond hope for Republicans to return to Earth 1 and find their spines would be funny if not so tragic for democracy."

There are reports from Republicans that their constituents are demanding that they fight for Trump. While his supporters dispute the election, and Trump continues to throw a tantrum, President-elect Joe Biden is stuck without access to the resources of the transition team. While Biden announced that he doesn't need the money because his campaign can cover the costs for now, there's a void in access to international relations around outreach to world leaders. Biden can't get intelligence briefings or even COVID-19 briefings from those at the CDC or NIH.

Eventually, however, Trump is going to have to leave. The day will come when security passes suddenly stop working and Ivanka Trump won't be allowed in the White House anymore.

But "does anyone imagine Trump will ever accept that he lost fair and square?" asked Rubin. "Of course not, and, therefore, the Republican Party will be forced to agree for the foreseeable future. If not, the Trumpian, red-hatted horde will descend — taunting and maybe seeking to primary incumbents who dare to recognize reality. Right-wing media certainly will continue to host him, giving him a platform to hector Republicans who acknowledge after the inauguration that President Joe Biden is, well, president. For right-wing media, the imperative will be to live in Trump-in-exile land lest he start up a competitive network and take his audience with him. The conspiracies and phony claims of fraud will go on for years."

Trump could make good on his threat to run again in 2024, forcing all other Republicans to submit to his candidacy. But would they? Cruz has already indicated he's interested in running again.

"Well, Trump might wind up getting prosecuted for financial crimes, you say?" wrote Rubin. "That will only make him the subject of even greater pity and adulation. Any conviction would be viewed as illegitimate, conferring even greater martyrdom on him. (In Florida, I hear it is hard to vote if you are a felon.)"

But if Trump doesn't have access to cameras, or rally crowds, what will happen? Will the MAGA crowd tire of him just as audiences tired of "The Apprentice?"

If rational Republicans want to, they could put an end to it all.

"First, the band of reality-based Republicans (easily identified as the people who admit Biden won) could decide they’ve had enough," she continued. "(More than one reader has suggested that if a group of three or four refuses to caucus with either side, they’d hold the balance of power and run the Senate.) The party at that point might splinter or suffer ongoing convulsions as the two sides (one pro-reality and pro-democracy, the other anti-both) fight it out."

Second, bad GOP behavior could help bring on a resurgence of Democratic success in 2022 "as voters decide divided government with a delusional, obstructionist party is worse than one-party government. Then, perhaps, the self-correction might take place," Rubin suggested.

She closed by predicting another option: that Trump will still manage to control the GOP officials and they'll rationalize some reason that Biden is not the legally elected president. They could incite their base and feign outrage with fake scandals.

"It simply is not in their nature to confront the real problem, namely that they are tied to a shriveling demographic that they think can only be ginned up by ever-more outrageous lies and authoritarian gambits," said Rubin. "And let’s face it: There are not a lot of creative, idealistic young people racing to join the Republican Party to save them from themselves. What you see now — a cowardly, authoritarian-minded and overwhelmingly White Republican Party — is not likely to change anytime soon."

Read the full editorial at the Washington Post.