S. Dakota Sen. John Thune, the number two Republican in the Senate, is criticizing supporters of Donald Trump for censuring senators who voted to convict the former president during his impeachment trial.
Thune, who voted to acquit the president, claims that some Republicans are engaging in “cancel culture” by approving votes of censure at the state and local level. He said people shouldn’t criticize “votes of conscience” and warned against canceling dissenting voices in the party.
“There was a strong case made,” Thune said. “People could come to different conclusions. If we’re going to criticize the media and the left for cancel culture, we can’t be doing that ourselves.”
I suppose that’s one way to look at it. And in ordinary times, Thune’s argument would resonate with many Republicans. But these are not ordinary times. They are desperate times as the Republican Party is under unprecedented assault from all sides. If a time ever called for unity, this is it.
Thune’s remarks were his first explaining his vote in Trump’s trial and assessing the turbulent GOP politics the former president has left behind. Thune, who is facing reelection next year in deeply conservative South Dakota, is among several establishment Republicans grappling with how to reclaim control of a party dominated by Trump and his most ardent supporters for years.
The senator only rarely criticized Trump while he was in office. But he called the former president’s actions after the election “inexcusable” and accused him of undermining the peaceful transfer of power.
With 25,000 British regulars on ships in New York harbor waiting to disembark, members of the Continental Congress did not have the luxury of debating the finer points of independence. “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately,” Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said.
That would be good advice for Republicans facing the onslaught.
Thune suggested he would be taking steps to assist candidates “who don’t go off and talk about conspiracies and that sort of thing.” He praised Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, who was censured by the Wyoming GOP for voting to impeach Trump, for doing an “exceptional job on most issues” and said he was ready to jump into primary battles like the one she is sure to face.
“At the grassroots level, there’s a lot of people who want to see Trump-like candidates,” he said. “But I think we’re going to be looking for candidates that are electable.”
“Electable” is good. And in many deep-red states, running as a Trump supporter will be a live-or-die necessity. But how about a state like Pennsylvania? The Keystone State will be key to Republican hopes of winning back the Senate. But the political waters have been muddied by outgoing Senator Pat Toomey’s vote to convict the former president. It has cleaved the party and set Republicans against each other.
“Any candidate who wants to win in Pennsylvania in 2022 must be full Trump MAGA,” said Steve Bannon, a former White House chief strategist to Trump. And Bannon is just the man to make that happen. A full-strength MAGA candidate could almost certainly win a GOP primary — at least, at this point in time. But the impact on Independents and right-leaning Democrats of the Capitol riot and Trump’s impeachment remains unknown.
The Democrats and their media allies will make sure that both the riot and impeachment are front and center in every race of consequence in 2022. By then, we’ll have had two years of a President Biden, AOC, the Squad, and incomprehensibly stupid policies. That alone may be enough to give any Republican a good chance of capturing the seat.