Why Republican candidates can't escape Trump
Once again, he's put them in a bind
Republican candidates for Senate, House and governorships in the upcoming midterms have been filling the airwaves today with baseless assertions that the FBI search of Mar-a-lago shows the politicization of the Justice Department and undermines the rule of law. Republicans ranging from third-ranking House Republican Elise Stefanik to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have issued statements brimming with outrage and accusation. Last night, the RNC sent out a fundraising text: “THIS IS NOT A DRILL: UNPRECEDENTED move Biden’s FBI RAIDS Pres. Trump’s home. Time to take back Congress.”
Rubbish. There’s no evidence that the FBI search was motivated by anything other than concerns (and, under a court order, probable cause) that Trump made off with documents rightfully belonging to the United States. That’s a criminal offense. If anyone has been undermining the rule of law, it’s Trump. Recall that Trump himself appointed the current director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, after firing former director James Comey for investigating the ties of Trump’s 2016 campaign to Russia.
But any allegation of Trump wrongdoing is automatically treated by the Trump Republican base as a loyalty test — triggering demands that Republican lawmakers and GOP hopefuls defend Trump and attack Democrats for going after him.
This is putting Republican candidates in a terrible bind.
As Biden and the Democrats take victory laps for legislation they’ve been passing – the CHIPs and Science Act, which President Biden today signed into law, and, very soon, the Inflation Reduction Act – the Republican Party wallows in Trumpist grievance and accusation.
GOP candidates know that their best chance of prevailing in November with independent voters depends on distancing themselves from Trump and focusing on hot-button issues like inflation, crime, and immigration. But today’s reaction to the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search shows how difficult that will be. September and October are likely to be all about Trump, and Republican candidates will have to go to the mat for him. Consider:
The January 6 committee will resume its hearings in early September. Those hearings will almost certainly provide more evidence of Trump’s attempted coup of 2020.
The Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s role in pushing fake electors and in removing documents from the White House appears to be heating up.
The D.C. Court of Appeals has just cleared the way for the House Ways and Means Committee to obtain Trump’s long-hidden tax returns.
Prosecutors in Georgia continue their investigation into Trump’s demand that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger "find" the votes Trump needed to win an election that three separate courts confirmed he lost. Rudy Giuliani has just been ordered to testify before the grand jury in that case.
Trump himself will likely declare his candidacy for president in September or October.
All of which means Republican candidates will be under increasing pressure from Trump’s base to defend Trump, to rage against his accusers, and to re-litigate the 2020 election – tasks that will be increasingly difficult as further evidence emerges of Trump’s criminality.
Meanwhile, Democrats will be able to boast about what they’ve done for the American people — reduce drug prices, cut the costs of healthcare, clean the environment, maintain America’s competitive edge, and modernize the nation’s roads, bridges, and water and sewage systems. As Joe Biden put it today when he signed into law the CHIPs and Science Act, America has met the moment: “a moment when we bet on ourselves, believed in ourselves and recaptured the story, the spirit and the soul of this nation.”
Which do you think will be the more attractive message to the independent voters who will largely determine the outcome of the midterms — defending Trump or “recapturing the can-do spirit” of America?