With Trump candidates doing so well in the summer primaries, many Republicans remain conspicuously silent about the former president’s enduring appeal. Not me.
“If criticism of Mr. Trump is what you want,” I write in my new book, “Party Animal, The Truth About President Trump, Power Politics & the Partisan Press,” “turn on the television, read any newspaper or scroll any website. It is ubiquitous and won’t be repeated here…” (RELATED: BASILE: In The Swamp Everyone Finds A Way To Win)
Too many beltway Republicans are eager for a return to the good ‘ol days of a “comfortable conservatism” marked by more spending at home and intervention abroad. The fact is, Donald Trump brought the GOP kicking and screaming into issues they’d been avoiding for decades — from trade to immigration to ‘woke’ corporatism. Oh, and he helped bring about the most originalist Supreme Court in my lifetime.
I worked closely with the Trump administration in my brief tenure in the remarkable 115th Congress — which included the very successful tax reform that Democrats are now in the process of undoing. I also campaigned alongside Trump in Minnesota as that state’s Republican Senate nominee in 2020. A race held amid the dueling chaos of rioting and bizarre “shelter-in-place” orders from which the Twin Cities have yet to recover.
So I can assure you that the knee-jerk establishment opposition to the brash New Yorker had nothing to do with Trump’s so-called abrasive personality. As I write, “the media deliberately conflated style with substance, using his idiosyncrasies to go after a man whose policies they didn’t like.” And they went after me too — in demagogic fashion.
This was the weaponized “swamp” that zeroed in on Trump from the moment he announced his candidacy. A toxic combination of pseudo journalism buttressed by a corrupt bureaucracy and a band of neocons and ‘never-Trumpers’ best exemplified by the perverse antics of the Lincoln Project. It continues today — just turn on the Jan. 6th hearings.
The country “faces an existential threat” (to use that shopworn phrase) all right, but fighting it requires far more than donning a Ukrainian lapel pin. America First is up against a new censorious “squad” of extremists that has the entire nation “waking up to what Obama meant when he told Republicans, ‘elections have consequences.’”
When the riots broke out in Minneapolis, my 2020 opponent, Sen. Tina Smith, egged on what she called “righteous protest,” and added, “there is something dangerously wrong with the role that police play in our society.” Rep. Angie Craig, who succeeded me in the House, recently took to the floor to read aloud from the Welcoming Schools agenda for transgender and nonbinary youth, a school program concocted by one of her chief benefactors, the Human Rights Campaign.
So Republicans must ask themselves what kind of leaders they want to battle radicalism. The “carried-interest” crowd who secretly believes its enemies or someone willing to fight fire with fire. Trump intuitively understood what the political consultancy class won’t acknowledge — just because you ignore all the unfounded attacks against you doesn’t mean the rest of the country won’t be gaslighted.
Contrary to what the establishment conservative media endlessly claims, fighting back is good strategy too. Trump got more votes than any Republican in history and an unapologetic former talk radio host in Minnesota garnered the most ever votes for a Republican candidate statewide.
Who knew that Joe Biden and Tina Smith would be more popular than Barack Obama in Ilhan Omar’s district?
Former Congressman Jason Lewis was Minnesota’s Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2020 and is the author of “Party Animal, The Truth About President Trump, Power Politics & the Partisan Press.”
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