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Republicans are charting a dangerous and unprecedented path to extremism under the leadership of Donald Trump

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IN WASHINGTON, DC The most striking image of the year so far in Washington occurred last Thursday on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Shortly after President Bidens’ speech commemorating the Jan. 6 uprising on Capitol Hill, Nancy Pelosi called on politicians to observe a minute’s silence in the chamber of the House of Representatives. Exactly a year after being hounded by Donald Trump conspiracy theorists, with one threatening to shoot him in the head, live on TV, the president has sought to pay tribute to the four police officers who lost their lives in the riot. .

They all risked their safety for our democracy by defending the Capitol, she observed, inviting all deputies to rise for a minute of silence. But while the traditional silence was observed, not all members were present. Despite claiming to be the party of law and order, only two Republicans have dared to risk the wrath of former presidents by running.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming was among them, cementing her reputation among Trump supporters as a traitor for backing the impeachment of former presidents last year and helping lead congressional efforts to investigate the riot. But it was the Republican who accompanied him who caught the eye: his father, former Vice President Dick Cheney,

At 80, the man once considered the Darth Vader of Republican politics rarely appears in public today. He chose the anniversary as a time to castigate the current generation of Republican leaders. It’s not a leadership like any of the people I knew when I was here for 10 years, he told reporters, endorsing his daughters’ assertion that the party is under the grip of a cult of personality and dangerous for the country.

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There is no doubt that Donald Trump remains the dominant force in Grand Old Party politics. In a nation without an official opposition leader, he seeks to fill that role. It is unprecedented. No other former president or, as Biden called Trump last week, defeated former president has continued to exert such a grip on his party.

It’s not just Trump’s personality that dominates. As well as his ideas.

Congressional party leader Kevin McCarthy ceded control and allowed these radical figures to hijack his caucus. His mate in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was seen as right-wing as America expanded. Now he is ridiculed daily by Trump, who in his statements calls him the Old Crow.

Many moderates are leaving, kicked out after Trump calls them RINOs (Republicans in name only). Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois would have been one of the party’s rising stars in normal times. In Trump’s world, he is quitting Congress, pledging to find other ways to combat the influence of former presidents after he and many other moderates receive death threats for turning against the new party orthodoxy.

America still has a viable two-party system. But former Republican heroes like Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan would not recognize their former political home. They would not be welcome there either. In the past, American elections were contested and won at the political center. But Trump and his supporters believe they can win by taking the extreme.

The established political institutions of the country do not interest them. The Republican National Committee (RNC), controlled by Trump loyalists, now feels emboldened enough to opt out of the traditional televised debates produced each election by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. The RNC says it no longer sees the Commission as a fixture since the Reagan administration as a fair and non-partisan actor. It says any Republican running in 2024 must first pledge to boycott any debates the Commission seeks to organize.

This kind of bombardment threatens to upset American traditions and horrifies Washington’s elite. But Trump and his cronies watch the polls and see no reason to backtrack. Bidens’ approval rating hit 33% in a poll this week. More than 70% of Republicans think Trumps Big Lie says Biden rigged the 2020 election and is illegitimate in office. The absence of supporting facts makes no difference.

Whether Trump runs again or the party presents a presidential candidate modeled after it, the die is cast. Americas Grand Old Party has not just let go of its moorings. It’s far out to sea, charting a dangerous and unprecedented course and there seems to be no turning back.

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