Republicans had a plan to rid themselves of Trump -- but they’ve given up: columnist
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (AFP/File / NICHOLAS KAMM)

In his column for Intelligencer, political commentator Jonathan Chait asserts that the Republican leadership saw an opening to put distance between themselves and former president Donald Trump, came up with a plan -- and then watched it all fall apart.

So they have given up and accepted that they are stuck with him.

Presented with two impeachment trials where they could have helped Democrats oust the now-former president, Republicans took a pass fearing his ire and his use of the presidential bully pulpit.

As Chait points out, the Jan 6th capitol riot that the president not only inspired but reportedly cheered on, handed them the opportunity to shun Trump and move on with an eye on the future.

With that in mind, the columnist suggests Republicans bite the bullet and hope that Terry McAuliffe defeats Republican Glenn Youngkin for the Virginia governorship because it would prove that candidates backed by Trump are hindered in close elections.

But they are choosing to go all-in on Youngkin instead.

"It's not that mainstream Republicans are morons. They're perfectly aware of the stakes Trump has in the race," he explained.

Chait notes that this is just the latest opportunity Republicans have been handed, but once again they are balking.

"This is the basic choice the Republican Establishment has been making for more than half a dozen years now. The last time Republicans made it was during Trump's second impeachment," Chait recalled. "At first the insurrection so revolted them they briefly set out to make a permanent break that would prevent Trump from running again. Then they lost their nerve but told themselves they would isolate him from the party and eliminate his power without holding an impeachment vote. Then they simply gave up on that plan altogether."

The columnist notes that the party has been fractured by the former president which will continue to be a roadblock to reaching a consensus that they need to move on, and that Trump knows how to manipulate the GOP caucus to his benefit.

"Trump has a talent — it is one of his few positive attributes — for sniffing out human weakness. He grasped early on that while many Republicans objected to his behavior, few of them cared about it more than they cared about winning," he wrote, "... so he keeps giving them the choice of splitting with him and his base and risking political defeat, or sticking with him and having a chance to win. They consistently choose the latter."

Chait notes that, having given up trying to move past Trump, Republicans are now doing their best to purge his critics.

"After impeachment, remember, the Republican plan was to isolate Donald Trump to make it impossible for him to have a future in Republican politics. Now Republicans are carrying out this plan against the surviving anti-Trump Republicans," he wrote before concluding, "If Trump or his successors ever bring down American democracy, history will record that Republicans decided to cast their lot with him. Indeed, all the evidence we have is that they never even considered the alternative."

You can read the whole piece here.