It’s time for Republicans to take back their party from the crazies

A few days ago, in the midst of promoting his new, best-selling memoir, former President Barack Obama went looking for a new audience. He made an appearance on the Snapchat show, “Good Luck America,” which is generally followed by young, progressive Democrats.

In other words, this audience was not your father’s Democratic Party.

Not surprisingly, Obama was asked if his party should embrace its most liberal side, which has called for defunding police departments and pushing for uber-progressive ideals such as free college.

Obama, a savvy pragmatist despite his liberal ideals, offered some welcome advice in these boiling political days. “The key is deciding do you want to actually get something done?” Obama said, adding this coda: “Or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with.”

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Keep in mind that Obama was talking to Democratic lefties. But he could have been speaking to another corner of America’s political tossed salad — the most vocal followers of Donald Trump, who continue to claim that President-elect Joe Biden stole the election.

Do you want to actually get something done? Or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?

How are Republicans answering these questions? Right now, it’s hard to tell.

Watching Trump as he continues to claim, with questionable evidence, that his defeat was the result of massive fraud and that he actually “won” the election is an unprecedented challenge for the nation’s democratic principles.

It’s also a challenge for ordinary Republicans.

How long do Republicans want to repeat Trump’s “I-really-won” mantra?

On Monday, the 538 members of the nation’s Electoral College are scheduled to meet in their separate states and formally declare Biden the winner.

Meanwhile, 18 attorneys general — all representing Republican-run states – stepped forward this week to support a last-ditch effort by Texas to argue election fraud claims before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Texas lawsuit is supported by 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives. The evidence behind this case was as thin as the legal paper it was written on.

And that’s a kind way to describe the court challenge.

With that in mind, I phoned Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police Commissioner and one of the president’s chief lieutenants in the attempt to overturn the election.

Reality check for Trump’s fantasies: Judges aren’t his pawns on election lawsuits.

It was Thursday morning. Kerik’s voice was hushed. He was in a room in Washington, D.C., with his mentor, Rudolph Giuliani, who had just been released from a hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 and was now, via Zoom, speaking before a legislative hearing in Georgia.

Giuliani, who has skipped across the nation in recent weeks as Trump’s personal lawyer in an attempt to overturn the election, continued to push several baseless narratives about voter fraud in Georgia.

Kerik, who lives in Franklin Lakes and whose loyalty to Trump was solidified last February when the president gave him a full pardon for his 2009 federal tax fraud conviction, had come to Washington to support Giuliani — and Trump. For Kerik and Giuliani, there is no surrender, no doubts when it came to Trump’s case.

“The evidence,” Kerik told me, “is overwhelming.”

Dietmar Panzig is a Trump supporter in Kent County, Delaware. Panzig was born in Germany, the son of a captain in the German Army during World War II. He moved to America with his parents in the early 1950s.

Fact check here: The evidence is not overwhelming – and that’s no exaggeration.

Since the election, judges in eight states — in state and federal courts — have rejected nearly 50 efforts by Trump to overturn Biden’s victory.

Consider what a federal appeals court judge wrote in rejecting one of Trump’s claims. “Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so,” wrote Judge Stephanos Bibas in Philadelphia. “Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

In legal terms, that’s what you call a slap-down.

By the way, Judge Bibas was appointed to the appeals court by Trump. In case you wondered.

Days later, all nine justices in the U.S. Supreme Court — three of them appointed by Trump — tossed out another legal challenge by the president’s lawyers.

In each case, the story has been similar. Trump, despite his whining about massive fraud, offered no credible evidence.

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Trump’s central claim of corruption within the nation’s system of mail-in balloting has been rejected over and over. It’s been the same story with Trump’s crazy-uncle conspiracies that foreign nations hacked voting machines, that Republican poll monitors were not granted proper access to ballot counting and that absentee ballots were improperly handled.

If anything, this election reminded us of the dedication — and patriotism — of ordinary poll workers, Republicans and Democrats alike, who work behind the scenes to count ballots. Knowing that the president and his allies would be watching, many election workers meticulously counted — and recounted — ballots, unafraid of transparency and audits.

For this dedication, some election workers received death threats.

We expect such menacing behavior in tin-horn banana republics. We shouldn’t tolerate it in America.

But this is reality in Trump-ville — and, sadly, for some Republicans.

It needs to be said that not all Republicans have jumped on the Trump train to bitter-ville. Not all Trump supporters are conspiracy theorists. Not all say the election was rigged or manipulated or a modern day example of the voter fraud schemes that Frank Hague is known to have perfected in Jersey City a century ago.

Consider the sentiments of Steve Rogers, a retired Nutley, New Jersey police officer and one of Trump’s most vocal supporters.

Steve Rogers speaks on the deck of the antique yacht Mariner III, which played host to a fundraiser for President Donald J. Trump in New York harbor in August.
Steve Rogers speaks on the deck of the antique yacht Mariner III, which played host to a fundraiser for President Donald J. Trump in New York harbor in August.

Rogers, who served on Trump’s campaign advisory board, traveled the nation, giving speeches on Trump’s behalf. He worked relentlessly to raise campaign funds and build voter support for election day.

He’s no fan of Democrats. He fears what he calls the Democrats’ “socialist agenda.” He believes that Trump is one of America’s greatest presidents. And he ardently supported efforts by the president to challenge election results in such battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona.

“I’m a grassroots American Republican,” Rogers told me. “I’m not part of the establishment. I’m an outsider, who voted for the outside president who wouldn’t sell his soul.

Rogers was loyal too as Trump continued to push ahead with legal challenges to the election. “We’ll stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the president until all avenues are exhausted,” Rogers said.

At the same time, however, Rogers is a realist. He viewed the Texas lawsuit as the equivalent of a last-second “Hail Mary” pass in a football game. Rogers hoped the “Hail Mary” was successful. But he understood that it was a desperate move.

And so, on Thursday with Trump still crying foul in the White House, Rogers spoke of moving on at some point, of binding up America’s electoral wounds, of accepting defeat.

“Our political process is not gamesmanship,” Rogers said.

Rogers believes that Trump “did the best he could” in energizing his base of voters for the election and then raising questions about mail-in balloting.

But Rogers is looking ahead. He wants Trump to run for president again in 2024. For now, he trusts his country and the votes. In the end, Steve Rogers hopes Trump will “do the right thing.”

“The right thing would be to concede and go to the inauguration,” Rogers said. “Let the people know that Trump did everything he could possibly do.”

Well, it’s nice to dream, I guess. I’ll give Steve Rogers a pat on the back for his good intentions.

The Republican party is home to many reasoned voices like Steve Rogers. But right now, the Republican fringe is speaking loudest.

Republicans like Steve Rogers need to take back their party.

Mike Kelly is an award-winning columnist for NorthJersey.com, where this column originally appeared. Follow him on Twitter: @mikekellycolumn

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This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Republicans need to divorce their party from insanity of Trump

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