The House GOP’s Preposition Battle: “On” vs. “Away From”

 

Regarding Trump, of course.

A quick English lesson, before we start.

You may remember from Eighth Grade English or Grammar that a preposition is “a word or group of words used before a nounpronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, time, place, location, spatial relationships, or to introduce an object.” Some examples of prepositions are words like ‘in,’ ‘at,’ ‘on,’ ‘of,’ and ‘to.’ You can find a full list of prepositions here, and yes, “away from” is a multi-word preposition.

My “aha” moment when transitioning from a Marcusian liberal leftist in college to a Reagan-supporting conservative was over a pair of prepositions. I had read conservative authors such as Russell Kirk and Barry Goldwater (“Conscience of a Conservative,” still a must-read), among others, who discussed “freedom of.” You know, just like our Bill of Rights.

Then I picked up a copy of the late Senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey’s 1968 presidential campaign book “The Cause is Mankind.” In it, I read where the legendary Minnesota Democrat discussed freedom “from” things like hunger, poverty, etc., along with the promotion of the welfare state. It wasn’t hard to figure out that Democrats and leftists acquainted freedom with security, while most Republicans and conservatives saw freedom more literally. Freedom wasn’t running from anything. It just was.

Humphrey’s construct has evolved today, at least on college campuses, to freedom from “being offended” or freedom from opposing views, even freedom from your gender assigned at birth, and of course, freedom from viruses. That’s not the “freedom” our founders had in mind when discussing “freedom of speech, or of the press” — you know the thing.

That’s why people of The Left will tell you that, of course, they believe in freedom. It just may mean something different, or perhaps more than what our framers articulated. That is why it is always helpful to stop and define terms now and then.

This week’s public political drama in the House Republican Conference, in one sense, is over prepositions. Moving “on” from Donald Trump, versus moving “away from” the former President.

Incumbent (for now) House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) is all-in on the “away from” Donald Trump preposition (and proposition). She is joined by a smattering of other colleagues (US Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-IL) and a host of chattering classes from the pious right (the usual suspects at The DispatchThe Bulwark, and even National Review) to the slobbering left that is working overtime to drive wedges between pro-and anti-Trump Republicans, keep them divided and distracted. At the same time, they go about transforming America into a progressive paradise.

Meanwhile, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), his second-in-command Steve Scalise (R-LA), and a vast majority of their Conference are all about winning a majority and the Speaker’s gavel after the 2022 elections. And they are closing in on that goal. Their favored preposition is moving “on” from Trump, specifically the divisive battles over the 2020 election, January 6th violence, and impeachment to a unified caucus and party and a future majority.

It is obvious that McCarthy and Scalise, while pro-Trump, are pursuing a challenging big-tent strategy. They know it will take both wings of the party to win. They understand, perhaps better than most, the class and cultural battles underway right now. They also understand how Trump’s persona – love him or hate him – has come to be used as a cudgel by Democrats to keep Republicans divided – at least the appearance of division. Most Republicans still support Trump (albeit slipping somewhat), as polls clearly indicate.

To understand why read The New Class War by Michael Lind. You haven’t read it? Neither has anyone, it seems, at The Dispatch, The Bulwark, or National Review. Or Liz Cheney or her caucus supporters, for that matter, perhaps except the parts where he refers to Trump (and others) as a populist demagogue. Here’s an excerpt from a review of Lind’s book in Britain’s The Guardian they may have missed.

“…the idea that Trump was put over the top by white nationalism is not what the vote totals show, Lind says, pointing to polling data that after 2010 shows that white progressives have moved far to the left of African and Latino Americans.

“This is really being driven by elite whites, not by members of minority groups necessarily. They pose as saviors and champions of victimized groups and take a highly melodramatic view of politics.

“Between an oligarchy in technocratic form and outsider populism, Lind predicts that oligarchs with money and connections will win nine times out of 10. But as they turn narrow and nepotistic, the ruling class will further lose their connection to reality.”

McCarthy and smart, inclusive Republicans want to build on Trump’s success with multi-ethnic working-class Americans while making the 2022 election about something other than Trump personally as a way to win back voters in traditionally GOP suburbs. After all, the GOP did pretty well below the top of the ticket in 2020, gaining House seats despite losing the presidency and nearly keeping the US Senate against tremendous odds. They believe – and polls show – that suburban Americans disagree with much of what Democrats are pushing, from defunding police to eliminating voter ID requirements for elections, and are poised to return congressional Republicans to power. And the border crisis continues to play out, with most voters expressing dissatisfaction with the Biden Administration’s handling of it.

Democrats and their willing accomplices in GOP ranks are having nothing to do with that. Trump, the personality, is a useful foil in a battle over the suburbs, largely won by Democrats in the 2020 election. And the suburbs have grown a lot during the pandemic, as urban professionals continue to flee from crime-ridden and riot-prone inner cities and overly permissive, even malevolent prosecutors.

McCarthy has three very tricky political challenges: keep Trump’s desire for the spotlight under control (good luck with that). Second, as I’ve mentioned previously, showcasing a new set of leaders, from Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who gave perhaps the most successful response ever to a Presidential address (if only to expose who The Left really is), to Rep. Elise Stefanik, who will likely succeed Cheney, perhaps this week, as the new House GOP Conference chair. That, despite Stefanik’s notably less conservative voting record than Cheney’s.

Third and finally, getting anti-Trumpers to buy in on the need to keep Trump voters in the tent to advance the party’s short and longer-term interests. That may be the toughest one of all, given how much money The Left has invested in anti-Trump causes such as the now-discredited Lincoln Project. And Liz Cheney isn’t helping. Cheney and her colleagues want to completely excise Trump and his influence over the party, which would effectively neuter it and guarantee Democratic success for a generation, if not spawn a new political party for the disaffected, despite having been tried and failed before.

The theater around replacing Cheney in the leadership is predictable but should not prove damaging in the long-term – no more so than a campaign replacing a campaign manager when a shake-up is called for. Remember, “Trumpism isn’t an ideology – it’s a fighting posture,” pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson wisely observed. Just check out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ popularity.

Cheney never seemed to grasp that. After all, her voting record strongly supported Trump’s agenda. More so than Stefanik’s. Smart Republicans are trying to get suburban voters to separate Trump, the man, from his agenda, which looks better by the day. Especially concerning the southern border. Remember, winning elections is about addition, not subtraction.

This may be a tough week for the GOP, as its anti-Trump defeatists rend their garments and lament Cheney’s descent from leadership under the spotlight of fawning media and cheering Democrats. Some purists on the right will assault Stefanik’s voting record. But as Qui-Gon Jinn said in Star Wars, “there’s always a bigger fish.”

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  1. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    I am all for “moving away from” Trump.  I could live with “moving on” from Trump, as with Tim Scott’s brilliant rebuttal to Biden’s speech before Congress.  

    But with all due respect, it appears that elements of the base (and indeed some Ricochet posters and commentators) have no intention to either “moving away from” or “on from” Trump, but are embracing him and are seeking to drag everyone else down with the Trump ship.  And that I can’t and won’t agree with.  

    After the election, I was looking forward to a vacation from all things Trump, as he faded from the spotlight as did H.W. Bush, Carter and Hoover after they lost their re-election bids.  I especially expected this after the 1/6 capitol riot.  You would have heard from me only about movie mini-series such as “The Pacific” or trips to my family, or interesting books that I had read.  That was not to be.  

    • #1
  2. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    But with all due respect, it appears that elements of the base (and indeed some Ricochet posters and commentators) have no intention to either “moving away from” or “on from” Trump, but are embracing him and are seeking to drag everyone else down with the Trump ship.  And that I can’t and won’t agree with. 

    @henryracette

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I’m all in favor of moving on from and away from the GOPe. 

    But it should be mentioned that it was FDR who changed the meaning of freedom so that it was synonymous with security. He did it with his Four Freedoms speech. 

    • #3
  4. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Kelly D Johnston: “Trumpism isn’t an ideology – it’s a fighting posture” — Kristen Soltis Anderson

    Very nicely put and, I think, exactly the message we should take away as we move on from the Trump administration.

     

    • #4
  5. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    The “leadership” doesn’t get to decide that question. Eventually, politicians are forced to move toward the electorate, not the other way around. John Boehner thought he could smother the Tea Party in its crib. Instead that helped facilitate Trump.

    People are playing a very dangerous game here. The 5% think that they can bully the 95% by calling them insurrectionists, traitors, etc. What they are really doing is setting up the next guy, the far-worse alternative to Trump, the guy that says, “They want to strip us of our rights by falsely accusing us of armed insurrection. So if we are going to pay the price, we might as well show them what an armed insurrection really looks like.”

    • #5
  6. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    The GOP has always had the opportunity to “move on” from Trump. It could have happened way back in the 2016 primaries. All that had to be done was for the more mainstream candidates to embrace his issues, especially immigration. But if you leave the best tunes to the devil, don’t be surprised if people keep showing up to his concerts. All the hand-wringing about Trump is a distraction from the fact that the GOPe just can’t bring itself to embrace the positions that form the basis of Trump’s popularity. If they did that tomorrow, the bulk of Trump’s supporters would be happy to move on from him. 

    • #6
  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    EJHill (View Comment):

    The “leadership” doesn’t get to decide that question. Eventually, politicians are forced to move toward the electorate, not the other way around. John Boehner thought he could smother the Tea Party in its crib. Instead that helped facilitate Trump.

    People are playing a very dangerous game here. The 5% think that they can bully the 95% by calling them insurrectionists, traitors, etc. What they are really doing is setting up the next guy, the far-worse alternative to Trump, the guy that says, “They want to strip us of our rights by falsely accusing us of armed insurrection. So if we are going to pay the price, we might as well show them what an armed insurrection really looks like.”

    This is a big fear of mine. Ironically the one people (even here at Ricochet) just seem to think will work out fine. 

    We have seen our electoral process damaged. As John Hinderocker says, the Dems might not have stolen the election, but it is clear they tried. We know they want “election reform” to make elections easier to rig. All the powers that control communication are working hard to silence us. 

    Take away the Soap Box. Take away the Ballot Box. Now they are actively coming for the Cartage Box. That is “Cold, Dead, Hands” territory. They have every intention of obliging us. 

    • #7
  8. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Why do conservative Republicans always have to settle for a “moderate“? (Scare quotes intentional.) As with most moderates, I am concerned that Stefanik will “grow” in office.

    • #8
  9. CorbinGlassauer Inactive
    CorbinGlassauer
    @CorbinGlassauer

    What’s wrong with moving to or for Trump?

    • #9
  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    No, McCarthy and McConnell just want to keep the Chamber of Commerce and Big Farm donors happy, while fooling all other voters again.

    Defund sanctuary cities. Defund Planned Parenthood. Build the wall. These are just some of things Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promises to do when he takes back control of the Senate — that is, if Democrats dare to strike down the filibuster.

    It’s a great to-do list, the kind of things the conservative base elects Republicans every few years to do. When President Donald Trump took office in 2017 and the GOP controlled both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, though, none of it happened. Why not?

    [ . . .]

    Which brings us to the real reason we don’t see defunding for sanctuary cities, broadsides on the abortion machine, or a finished wall: The majority of senior Republicans don’t care about those issues, don’t want to fight on those issues, and as soon as election-time is over, would prefer to see them in the rear-view mirror. Those fights spook the Chamber of Commerce. Lockheed doesn’t benefit from them.

    Mitch McConnell Has Learned Nothing And Forgotten Nothing

    In the 2009-10 cycle, McConnell fought hard against then-candidates Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, and (briefly) Pat Toomey, deeming them unelectable. He opposed Ted Cruz in 2012 and Ben Sasse in 2014.

    He was largely responsible for losing a GOP Senate seat in Alabama in 2017 after backing Luther Strange over the conservative Rep. Mo Brooks in the Republican primary, which then elevated Roy Moore to a runoff with Strange. And we all know how that turned out. Arguably, McConnell is the reason Doug Jones became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Alabama in 25 years.

    In the other direction, McConnell-backed candidates like Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, Rick Berg in North Dakota, and Connie Mack in Florida all lost their Senate bids in 2012. Yet somehow McConnell is still presented as a shrewd judge of electability.

    [ . . . ]

    So maybe there’s an open midterm clash, maybe not. But for all the talk about what the GOP becomes post-Trump, and whether Republicans need pro-Trump candidates in order to regain a Senate majority in 2022, this much is certain: there’s not been enough talk about McConnell’s dismal role in picking candidates in recent years. The last person the Republican Party should consult right now about who is electable and who is not is McConnell—a man who has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

    The Senate Minority Leader no longer represents conservative voters.

    McConnell has power, but he has no constituency. Nobody is lining up to watch him make a speech. Nobody is buying Mitch McConnell merch. That may seem petty, but it isn’t. McConnell represents a Republican Party willing to lose everything as long as big business does well. That’s over. Republican voters won’t have it anymore. They know we are in a culture war that he has no interest in fighting. We need Republican leaders who will.

    Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Tom Cotton will fight this fight. These are the leaders we need. McConnell’s GOP was destroyed by Trump, but McConnell still doesn’t know it. He’d rather throw in with those who prefer losing to fighting. No. We aren’t going back to McConnell’s losing coalition. Trump lost, but he brought a new group of people to the GOP.

    Of course @MollieHemingway called this back in 2017, “Mitch McConnell’s Case For Controlling Republican Nominees Is Either Clueless Or Disingenuous.”

    For one thing, McConnell-preferred party contest winners such as Connie Mack in Florida, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, and Rick Berg in North Dakota are also not in the Senate. It’s disingenuous to pretend that only Tea Party enthusiasts lost races in 2010 or 2012.

    For another thing, there are plenty of senators McConnell opposed who made it to the Senate despite his best efforts. As it happens, these are some of the most conservative men in the Senate. McConnell strenuously fought some of these candidates, including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Ben Sasse. Had the establishment been more open to the base of the party, they would be in a much better situation now.

    As @MollieHemingway wrote in 2020, “Memo To Mitch McConnell: You Won’t Get Judges If You Don’t Hold Resistance Accountable For Russia Hoax

    Despite being controlled by Republicans throughout the ordeal, the Senate was largely absent from the fight with the exception of just a few senators — Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin being the primary investigators whose oversight work and document demands paid off. And their work should not be underplayed.

    [ . . .]

    If McConnell doesn’t start demanding more be done to hold the Resistance responsible for its damaging and dangerous Russia collusion hoax, his party will lose, and he won’t confirm another judge in his lifetime.

    McConnell and his gang treat me and my fellow voters as the real problem, their real enemy, but expect me to shut up and pull the lever every few Novembers for their cronies and tools. No more.

    • #10
  11. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

     The majority of senior Republicans don’t care about those issues, don’t want to fight on those issues, and as soon as election-time is over, would prefer to see them in the rear-view mirror. Those fights spook the Chamber of Commerce. Lockheed doesn’t benefit from them.

    That sounds like an argument for a new third party @cliffordbrown . Otherwise we keep coming back to the same old thing.

    • #11
  12. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    CorbinGlassauer (View Comment):

    What’s wrong with moving to or for Trump?

    I’m good with moving FOR Trump while also moving on from Trump. Does that make sense? I’m ok with Trump as not a statesman. I do have an issue with a party that abandons him to face political persecution. And I also think the best political place for all the GOP is embracing the policies Trump fought for. That starts with defending the GOP voters, refusing to accept the left media’s mischaracterizations of them, and not leaving your own out to dry because the left attempts an isolate and swarm maneuver.

    • #12
  13. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    Stina (View Comment):

    CorbinGlassauer (View Comment):

    What’s wrong with moving to or for Trump?

    I’m good with moving FOR Trump while also moving on from Trump. Does that make sense? I’m ok with Trump as not a statesman. I do have an issue with a party that abandons him to face political persecution. And I also think the best political place for all the GOP is embracing the policies Trump fought for. That starts with defending the GOP voters, refusing to accept the left media’s mischaracterizations of them, and not leaving your own out to dry because the left attempts an isolate and swarm maneuver.

    When I mentioned moving “on” from Trump I also meant building on Trump’s accomplishments and records (I should have used the word “build” more than once, since “moving on” is a little too nuanced or confusing for some. 

    • #13
  14. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Kelly D Johnston (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    CorbinGlassauer (View Comment):

    What’s wrong with moving to or for Trump?

    I’m good with moving FOR Trump while also moving on from Trump. Does that make sense? I’m ok with Trump as not a statesman. I do have an issue with a party that abandons him to face political persecution. And I also think the best political place for all the GOP is embracing the policies Trump fought for. That starts with defending the GOP voters, refusing to accept the left media’s mischaracterizations of them, and not leaving your own out to dry because the left attempts an isolate and swarm maneuver.

    When I mentioned moving “on” from Trump I also meant building on Trump’s accomplishments and records (I should have used the word “build” more than once, since “moving on” is a little too nuanced or confusing for some.

    I think you did fine, but perhaps so.

    • #14
  15. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Stina (View Comment):

    CorbinGlassauer (View Comment):

    What’s wrong with moving to or for Trump?

    I’m good with moving FOR Trump while also moving on from Trump. Does that make sense? I’m ok with Trump as not a statesman. I do have an issue with a party that abandons him to face political persecution. And I also think the best political place for all the GOP is embracing the policies Trump fought for. That starts with defending the GOP voters, refusing to accept the left media’s mischaracterizations of them, and not leaving your own out to dry because the left attempts an isolate and swarm maneuver.

    This is a very nice summary, and I completely agree.

    • #15
  16. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    Kelly D Johnston (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    CorbinGlassauer (View Comment):

    What’s wrong with moving to or for Trump?

    I’m good with moving FOR Trump while also moving on from Trump. Does that make sense? I’m ok with Trump as not a statesman. I do have an issue with a party that abandons him to face political persecution. And I also think the best political place for all the GOP is embracing the policies Trump fought for. That starts with defending the GOP voters, refusing to accept the left media’s mischaracterizations of them, and not leaving your own out to dry because the left attempts an isolate and swarm maneuver.

    When I mentioned moving “on” from Trump I also meant building on Trump’s accomplishments and records (I should have used the word “build” more than once, since “moving on” is a little too nuanced or confusing for some.

    Yes, as long as it is actually not Trump.

    • #16
  17. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    I am all for “moving away from” Trump. 

    If you move away from Trump, you move toward Democrat rule for the indefinite future . . .

    • #17
  18. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    I am all for “moving away from” Trump. 

    We’ll see if that’s true. If you’re working to get Cruz or DeSantis elected as our next president, that would make your statement believable.

    • #18
  19. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I am all for “moving away from” Trump. I could live with “moving on” from Trump, as with Tim Scott’s brilliant rebuttal to Biden’s speech before Congress.

    But with all due respect, it appears that elements of the base (and indeed some Ricochet posters and commentators) have no intention to either “moving away from” or “on from” Trump, but are embracing him and are seeking to drag everyone else down with the Trump ship. And that I can’t and won’t agree with.

    After the election, I was looking forward to a vacation from all things Trump, as he faded from the spotlight as did H.W. Bush, Carter and Hoover after they lost their re-election bids. I especially expected this after the 1/6 capitol riot. You would have heard from me only about movie mini-series such as “The Pacific” or trips to my family, or interesting books that I had read. That was not to be.

    I’m not sure you read the article:

    It is obvious that McCarthy and Scalise, while pro-Trump, are pursuing a challenging big-tent strategy. They know it will take both wings of the party to win. They understand, perhaps better than most, the class and cultural battles underway right now. They also understand how Trump’s persona – love him or hate him – has come to be used as a cudgel by Democrats to keep Republicans divided – at least the appearance of division. Most Republicans still support Trump (albeit slipping somewhat), as polls clearly indicate.  [Emphasis mine.]

    And I am not sure if you know all this, and are consciously working to bring about a permanent, one-party Democratic oligarchy.

    Or if you are what progressives appreciatively call a “Useful I___t”, one who is deceived (or self-deceived) into working for them, without even getting paid.

     

    • #19
  20. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Taras (View Comment):

    And I am not sure if you know all this, and are consciously working to bring about a permanent, one-party Democratic oligarchy.

    Or if you are what progressives appreciatively call a “Useful I___t”, one who is deceived (or self-deceived) into working for them, without even getting paid.

    I suspect (but do not know for sure) that Gary would be an OK guy, but he has fallen in with a bad crowd and craves their acceptance. 

    • #20
  21. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I am all for “moving away from” Trump. I could live with “moving on” from Trump, as with Tim Scott’s brilliant rebuttal to Biden’s speech before Congress.

    But with all due respect, it appears that elements of the base (and indeed some Ricochet posters and commentators) have no intention to either “moving away from” or “on from” Trump, but are embracing him and are seeking to drag everyone else down with the Trump ship. And that I can’t and won’t agree with.

    After the election, I was looking forward to a vacation from all things Trump, as he faded from the spotlight as did H.W. Bush, Carter and Hoover after they lost their re-election bids. I especially expected this after the 1/6 capitol riot. You would have heard from me only about movie mini-series such as “The Pacific” or trips to my family, or interesting books that I had read. That was not to be.

    Thank you for doing your part to keep Trump relevant by commenting on every Trump post. 

    • #21