Former president Donald Trump's ongoing "coup attempt" has permanently splintered the GOP, according to one prominent conservative columnist.
"As the Republican Party tries to make up its mind between wishing away the events of Jan. 6 or celebrating them, one thing should be clear to conservatives estranged from the party: We can't go home again," the National Review's Kevin D. Williamson writes in a column published Friday by the New York Times.
Describing the events of Jan. 6 as "the less important half" of Trump's coup attempt, Williamson points to ongoing state-level battles over things like election audits, as well as efforts to sabotage any congressional investigation of the insurrection. "The point is not even really to conduct an audit," he writes. "The obviously political object is to legitimize the 2020 coup attempt in order to soften the ground for the next one — and there will be a next one."
The "frenzied mobs" of Jan. 6 were merely intended to "inspire terror" and "obedience" among Republicans, Williamson writes, so that GOP opposition to a future coup — including from state and local election officials who ultimately thwarted the 2020 coup — fades away.
"That's why the Great Satan for the Republican Party right now is not Mr. Biden but Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of a small number of Republicans willing to speak honestly about Jan. 6 and to support the investigation into it," Williamson writes.
The "authors" of Trump's coup attempt — such as Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Fox News personalities — remain embedded in the GOP, Williamson writes. And the "middle-ground" Republican position has become that the insurrection was "at worst the unfortunate escalation of a well-intentioned protest involving legitimate electoral grievances."
He concludes that although the Trump administration was "grotesque in its cruelty and incompetence," the GOP could have re-united if it had been divided by mere policy issues such as immigration, taxes or trade.
"But there isn't really any middle ground on overthrowing the government. And that is what Mr. Trump and his allies were up to in 2020, through both violent and nonviolent means — and continue to be up to today," he writes. "When it comes to a coup, you're either in or you're out. The Republican Party is leaning pretty strongly toward in. That is going to leave at least some conservatives out — and, in all likelihood, permanently out."