Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photo: Getty Images
the national interest

How’s the Republican Strategy to Starve Trump of Oxygen Working Out?

Well, let’s just look at the last 24 hours.

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photo: Getty Images

After a brief upsurge of disgust with Donald Trump when his challenge to the election results turned violent, the Republican party’s more sober minds decided to let the matter drop. It was not in their interest to directly challenge the former president’s claims to have won the election — and alienate their own base — when they could instead be focusing on messages that unified their supporters. When asked if Joe Biden had fairly and legitimately won the election, they would deflect with the talking point that Biden is the president, and change the subject without answering the question.

The idea, or at least the rationale, is that the Republican Party Establishment would starve Trump of oxygen. Their leaders would be focusing on exciting new material, like the temporary spike in gasoline prices, while Trump would be stuck with “boring” talking points about Joe Biden’s sinister plot to rig the election and the brave cadre of loyalists who were working to uncover the scheme and restore him to power. No need for direct confrontation. He would just fade away.

How’s that plan working? Well, in the past 24 hours:

— Trump has blasted out a message attacking the Michigan election audit, which looked into his spurious claims of election fraud and found them wanting, as a part of the cover-up, urging his supporters to keep up the pressure on the state’s elected Republican leaders;

— The Washington Post reports that Trump loyalists are spending millions of dollars to disseminate propaganda, from rallies to a coming film, supporting Trump’s claim to have won the election.

— A new survey finds that 68 percent of Republicans believe Trump really won the election, and 46 percent support state legislatures tossing out the election results and handing their electoral votes to Trump.

— A commentator on OAN rather casually urged that the thousands of officials who are “in on” the plot to steal the election be executed as traitors:

All in all, it’s not going well. This discouraging outcome is the predictable result of an asymmetry of willpower between Trump, whose goal is to maintain his power at all costs, and his party, whose goal is to hold together their coalition. And Trump may not be a strategic genius, but he has a real knack for sniffing out human weakness and understanding how to exploit it. He has figured out that nobody in his party is willing to bear the political cost of standing up to his campaign to delegitimize the American political system. He will not stop. And the evidence to date bears out his belief that, in his struggle for the Republican heart, he is winning.

How’s the GOP Strategy to Starve Trump’s Oxygen Working Out?