'The party is on fire': Post-Trump Republicans must 'act crazy, tolerate crazy — or get crushed’

Republican gerrymandering has created red-district seats so safe that "crackpots and goofballs" are getting elected to Congress, according to an MSNBC guest, and now "the party is on fire."

Axios co-founder Jim VandeHei told "Morning Joe" that "crazy" Republicans like newly elected Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) appeal to a growing chunk of the conservative base, and that forces more GOP leadership to tolerate them -- or else.

"A big chunk of the base might not believe Qanon but they believe a lot of these conspiracy theories," VandeHei said. "There are more of those people than there are Dick Cheney-Liz Cheney Republicans. Again, go to Wyoming, look at the coverage in Wyoming. It is almost impossible when reporters are going there to find anyone who will even defend Liz Cheney, where I bet you could find a lot that would defend the congresswoman."

Former president Donald Trump helped create that dynamic, where the GOP base became attuned to increasingly outrageous statements and conspiracies, and Republican leadership are forced to follow along.

"Trump fomented a lot of this," VandeHei said. "To be honest, they don't know what to do. They don't want to deal with this stuff every day. They'd like to oust her. Again, members of Congress, leadership, are often never profiles in courage. They do what would give them self-preservation. All Kevin McCarthy is thinking about is, 'How do I become House speaker in 2025? I have to go to Mar-A-Lago, talk to Trump, talk to him like I don't think he's crazy.' That's the mentality that's driving it. That's why they tolerate this."

Cheney is finding out that the crazies have taken control of the party, he said.

"Liz Cheney, up to be the No. 3 Republican in the House in leadership -- I wouldn't be surprised if there is a vote and it's secret ballot and they oust her," VandeHei said. "The party is on fire right now. The idea that Liz Cheney or Dick Cheney or George Bush or Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney faction has real swat -- they don't. Why did Rob Portman say, 'I'm getting out of town?' He's a serious guy that wants to legislate and do what you say you want to have done. He said, 'If I run I have to either act crazy, tolerate crazy, be crazy or get crushed.' That's the calculation that so many of these members have to make."

VandeHei said Republicans are themselves to blame for creating congressional districts so reliably red that voters would send almost anyone to Washington as long as there was an "R" behind their name.

"Crackpots and goofballs have been elected in the history of the country," he said. "It's not that new. If you're in a place that has been gerrymandered the right way, almost anybody can win if they get through the primary."

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