Opinion | Will Trump Force Principled Conservatives to Start Their Own Party? I Hope So

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On Saturday, CNN described the civil war that has broken out in Arizona: “G.O.P. party leaders and elected officials who’ve gone all-in for Trump, backed by right-wing media, have relentlessly attacked those who can’t bring themselves to go along with the lame-duck president’s refusal to concede. To be sure, similar splits exist across the G.O.P. nationwide. But the infighting in Arizona offers a clear picture of why some Republicans fear that if Trump continues stirring up and directing his followers once he’s out of office, the party may cripple itself at the state and local level.”

The story added: “‘Some Republicans have decided to file for divorce from reality, facts be damned,’ said Barrett Marson, a publicist who worked for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s political action committee. … Perhaps most notable in the subsequent salvos was a tweet from the governor’s chief of staff, Daniel Scarpinato, to ‘Freedom Caucus’ chair Rep. Andy Biggs calling him nuts and ending, ‘Enjoy your time as a permanent resident of Crazytown.’”

To be sure, calling Ducey a “principled Republican” is a low bar, considering that he had no problem backing Trump all the way until now. Unlike other Trump-friendly Republicans, though, he was ready to draw a constitutional redline he would not cross.

But every day that goes by Trump shows us that as his power decreases, he surrounds himself with more and more unprincipled crackpots, who fan his delusions and propose more and more extreme actions, like Michael Flynn’s neofascist suggestion of declaring martial law and rerunning the election in some states Trump lost.

Therefore, the stress that Trump creates will surely get only worse after he leaves the White House, when, to stay relevant, he’ll need to say ever more extreme things that keep his base — now fully marinated in his conspiracy theories — energized and ready to attack any principled Republican who deviates from Trump. Also, all those Fox News commentators who prostituted themselves to Trump (and their ratings), helping to make his extreme base even more extreme, can’t stop now. They’ll lose their audience.

They’re all extremists who can’t stop, and principled conservatives understand that. Listen to Evan McMullin, the former C.I.A. operations officer and later chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, who resigned in 2016 to run for president as an independent:

“Even though Mr. Trump has been defeated, there is still no home for Republicans committed to representative government, truth and the rule of law, nor is one likely to emerge anytime soon,” wrote McMullin in this newspaper. “So what’s next for Republicans who reject their party’s attempts to incinerate the Constitution in the service of one man’s authoritarian power grabs? … The answer is that we must further develop an intellectual and political home, for now, outside of any party. From there, we can continue working with other Americans to defeat Mr. Trump’s heirs, help offer unifying leadership to the country and, if the Republican Party continues on its current path, launch a party to challenge it directly.”

Call me mad, but my gut tells me that when Trump is just the monarch of Mar-a-Lago — just spewing venom — some Republicans will say “enough.” Somewhere in there a new party of principled conservatives might just get born.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. But what a blessing that would be for America.

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