Republican politicians who don’t support Donald Trump have made starkly different choices over the last five years.
Some, like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have tempered their criticism of the 45th president — opposing him at times, while accommodating him at others in service of their partisan objectives.
A smaller coterie of others, like Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, have opposed Trump vigorously — in her case, voting to impeach him and helping lead the House investigation into his conduct on Jan. 6, 2021. On Thursday evening, Cheney will again take center stage as the Jan. 6 panel holds what is expected to be its final prime-time hearing of July.
As Peter Baker writes, Cheney and her allies are betting that history’s judgment will eventually vindicate their choices, while insisting that her motives are not political.
“I believe this is the most important thing I’ve ever done professionally,” Cheney told Baker in an interview, “and maybe the most important thing I ever do.”
Thus far, however, the accommodationists have carried the day. McConnell worked closely with the Trump White House to stock the federal judiciary with more than 200 conservative judges, realizing a decades-long project that culminated with the hard-right transformation of the Supreme Court and the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Republicans are also poised to retake the House in November, and possibly the Senate, even though the official organs of the party have rallied behind Trump and, in the case of the Republican National Committee, helped pay his considerable legal bills.
Is the center still vital?
Still, Trump’s consolidation of the base of the Republican Party — the MAGA die-hards who wouldn’t blanch if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, proverbially speaking — has left a vacuum at the center of American politics that both parties have jostled to fill.
Democrats seized the middle in the 2018 midterms, retaking the House by focusing on kitchen-table issues like health care, while setting themselves up to win full control of Congress two years later. Republicans have countered this year by seizing on inflation and various cultural issues in an attempt to portray Democrats as out of the mainstream.
One reason behind all this political volatility: College-educated suburban voters have bounced around from election to election, making that bloc a kind of no-man’s land between two entrenched camps.
Key Themes From the 2022 Midterm Elections So Far
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Read More: The Hole in the Center of American Politics