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Thursday, March 21, 2024

Only Trumpers are allowed to be Republicans

The Republican Party is going through a nasty divorce

By Kerry Eleveld for Daily Kos

When former Vice President Mike Pence said last Friday that he would not be endorsing his old boss Donald Trump for a second term as president, it made for a good chuckle: Pence wouldn't be backing the guy who tried to have him hanged on Jan. 6, 2021.

But zoom out a bit and Pence's rejection of his former boss comes amid a potentially meaningful groundswell of opposition from many of those who worked closest with Trump—including his former top aides and Cabinet members.

The Biden campaign sure thinks it’s notable. Shortly after Pence's statement, the campaign's rapid response director, Ammar Moussa, blasted out a list to reporters of former Trump staffers who don't think Trump and his autocratic agenda should be "anywhere near the Oval Office."

Pence topped the list, followed by former U.N. ambassador and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley—but let's put a pin in that for a moment.

Other former senior Trump officials who made Team Biden's "short list" were:

“Those who worked with Donald Trump at the most senior levels of his administration believe he is too dangerous, too selfish, and too extreme to ever lead our country again — we agree," Moussa said in the statement.

In January, anti-Trumper and publisher of The Bulwark Sarah Longwell published a list in The New York Times of 17 of Trump's former administration officials—and the not-so-flattering things they have said about him. 

Longwell’s round up cited several people who didn't make Team Biden's short list, including former Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.

"The president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices," Spencer said in November 2019.

Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats criticized Trump last summer for mishandling classified documents.

“It’s more than just a bunch of papers and what big deal is this and so forth," Coats said in July. "Lives can be lost.”

But truly no one has derided Trump quite like retired four-star Marine Corps general and former chief of staff John Kelly when he was asked his opinion last October.

“What can I add that has not already been said?” Kelly said, when asked if he wanted to weigh in on his former boss in light of recent comments made by other former Trump officials. “A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family – for all Gold Star families – on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France. ...

“A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about. ... A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law."

Fast forward to today and former Rep. Liz Cheney is now sparring with a shouty Trump on social media as he falsely accuses her of suppressing evidence in the Jan. 6 investigation that supposedly proves he authorized National Guard troops to respond to the violent insurrection.


Cheney responded with a tweet of her own, writing, "Lying in all caps doesn’t make it true, Donald. You know you and your lawyers have long had the evidence."

Cheney also made a point last week of re-upping a 2022 reelection campaign ad in which her father, Dick Cheney—the Republican vice president who most immediately preceded Pence—calls Trump "a coward" who lied to his supporters.

“In our nation’s 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump," the elder Cheney says in the ad.

The fact that Pence, the Cheneys, and a preponderance of former Trump officials are all singing from the same songbook is notable, especially in light of polling showing that in Iowa, for instance, 43% of Haley supporters said they would vote for President Joe Biden if Trump won the Republican nomination.

When Haley ended her campaign earlier this month, she invited Trump to "earn the votes" of her supporters and left herself wiggle room to endorse him at a later date.

But Trump's repeated jeers since then have only pushed her further away while high-profile Republicans are making it easier for her to declare him unfit for office. Haley might still find her way back to Trump, but there's also a world in which she doesn't—sending a clear message to a meaningful swath of voters who could help decide the election.

Even if Haley falters, it’s increasingly likely that instead of the GOP coming together at the Republican National Convention this summer, the party will enter the final stretch of the 2024 election more deeply divided, fractured, and broken than at any time in modern memory.