House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of Calif., speaks during a news conference, Nov. 15, 2022, after voting on top House Republican leadership positions, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 9, 2022. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / AP

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Gordon L. Weil formerly wrote for the Washington Post and other newspapers, served on the U.S. Senate and EU staffs, headed Maine state agencies and was a Harpswell selectman.

Donald Trump may have made matters a lot easier for both Republicans and Joe Biden.

He argued for the “termination” of the Constitution when it came to dealing with his claim that he had been cheated out of winning the 2020 election.

Whatever our personal views, all Americans are supposedly united in supporting the Constitution. Even when we honestly disagree about some of its terms, we all likely agree that it deserves our allegiance and support. Without it, we have no American Republic. Trump seems not to care.

Republicans will have narrow control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Their majority gives them the chance to set the table for the 2024 elections by offering alternatives to the Democrats, even if they are not accepted, and agreeing with the Democrats when it suits them.

But some Republicans want to keep following Trump, despite his focus on himself rather than on his party or country. They would try to  harass Biden and discredit the  January 6 committee, which places some blame on the Trump White House for the insurrection. These right-wing Republicans prefer to be backward looking, not forward looking.

Trump’s dangerous statement gives the GOP the opportunity to cut its dependency on him and his hardcore backers by taking the high ground, defending the Constitution. They can reject the Trumpers without being vulnerable to any charges they are RINOs, Republicans In Name Only.

Congressional Republicans have mostly been silent about Trump’s statement, perhaps fearful of losing the support of his core. Yet, at the start of the new Congress on Jan. 3, 2023, all of them must pledge to support the Constitution, as required by its  Article VI. The Framers wanted to ensure that federal and state office holders remember they are subject to it.

If Trump backers favor him over respecting the Constitution, they clearly lean toward authoritarian government, where the leader means more than the law. If they forgive Trump his foibles or fear the political price for defending the Constitution, they enable him and others in destroying it.

This Congress is likely to be a turning point for the Republicans. They can obstruct or offer alternatives. Their House leadership can cater to the party’s extreme right wing and continue on the path toward permanent minority status, taking a majority of the House GOP with them.

The right wing does not want the House Speaker to allow any matter to come to a vote unless it has the support of a “majority of the majority.” In other words, nothing happens unless a majority of Republicans approve. This would prevent any bill from being passed by most Democrats and some Republicans. The Senate, even under Democratic control, would be stymied.

In the 2022 congressional elections,  26 seats were rated by nonpartisan Politico as pure toss-ups. Only six of them went to the GOP, which also picked up one seat leaning Democratic. Those seven new members must be moderates if they want to hold onto their seats. Ignoring them, likely the right wing’s preference, could be fatal to Republican control in 2024.

It’s questionable if that’s what American voters want. If they prefer a government that finds compromises and produces results, they need a Republican House that works. It can put its stamp on legislation rather than only using its majority to attack Biden and his proposals and to rewrite history. Ensuring nothing happens except partisan bitterness is not good government.

The Maine Legislature was rated as a toss-up this year. But the GOP failed to gain control of either chamber. Still, it did not adopt Paul LePage’s hostility toward Gov. Janet Mills. The Maine Republicans set an example for their Washington counterparts.

They agreed with the governor that more funding is needed for home heating aid rather than simply demanding she cut tax rates. Their support is essential so that help will come when needed. The two sides readily began talking about ways to get the aid moving, which will ultimately give the GOP influence on who receives it. That presumably is what the voters want to happen.

How does Trump’s attack on the Constitution, revealing both his unbridled ego and his disloyalty to his oath, help Joe Biden?

My assumption has been from the outset that  Biden has never intended to be more than a single-term president. But he did not want to be seen as ducking a new contest with Trump, especially in light of the charges that he had somehow won previously by cheating.

Now, nobody should worry about running against the American In Name Only, who would terminate the Constitution for his own benefit. In decline, Trump may be out of the Republican nomination race much less the general election.

Biden can now decline to run again without appearing to dodge a real challenge by Trump.

 

 

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Gordon Weil, Opinion contributor

Gordon L. Weil formerly wrote for the Washington Post and other newspapers, served on the U.S. Senate and EU staffs, headed Maine state agencies and was a Harpswell selectman.