When in doubt, turn to Lincoln. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” he told the Illinois Republican State Convention in 1858. It was considered radical and politically incorrect, but it still has the virtue of being true. Today’s Republicans should take note.
With poll numbers trending their way as Americans watch a weak Biden presidency unfold, Republicans must resist the temptation to tear at each other.
The damaging effect of party divisions can be devastating. An analysis of the Georgia runoff elections, for instance, showed that while Democrats were pushing new voters to the polls, there was a drop-off of an estimated 200,000 voters in Republican areas, which helped hand the race to Leftist Senator Raphael Warnock and the Senate majority Bernie Sanders.
Recently, many Republicans with prominent platforms again played into the hands of left-wing media and the Democrats by attacking President George W. Bush for two lines in his 9/11 anniversary remarks. Mr. Bush’s comments gave conservatives a prime opportunity to talk about Antifa, BLM Marxists, those who torched America’s cities in 2020, and the Leftist cancel culture that seeks to rewrite our nation’s history.
Instead, Republicans decided to bash the 43rd President injecting the January 6th riot into the news cycle. You would expect that from the New York Times or CNN, not from conservatives.
Every time Republicans attack each other, it cuts against the party unity necessary to beat the Left. What was so curious and caustic about this recent circular firing squad was that it was a totally unforced error.
Approximately 70 percent of Republican voters in a Morning Consult poll from the summer disagreed with the statement, “The people who broke into the U.S. Capitol on January 6 are representative of the Republican Party.” Recent polling data has shown that a solid majority of Americans also appreciate that the January 6th committee investigation is biased toward Democrats.
Extremists on the far-right like white supremacist groups are small, poorly-funded fringe players in our nation’s politics with no credible platform for their views. Denying they exist, however, doesn’t pass the smell test.
On the other hand, Leftist activists count on Big Tech, Big Media, Big Government, academia, and the leaders of the Democrat Party among their supporters. That’s where the GOP should focus their political fire.
Of course, January 6th wasn’t 9/11. Nor was it Pearl Harbor or an insurrection. Americans understand that, and so does George W. Bush. Mr. Bush, for his part, understands that real conservatives embrace pluralism, individual liberty, and constitutional freedoms. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.
January 6th rioters have been treated in some respects much worse than Antifa and BLM terrorists. That should certainly justify some outrage.
But there is a common principle of effective communication. If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Republicans have tied themselves in knots trying to explain away or even defend January 6th for nine months. In their criticism of Mr. Bush’s comments, they played into Democrats’ continued efforts to weaponize the travesty of that day to paint the party as extreme.
You can’t defend the indefensible. Trump supporters, Republicans, and Conservatives shouldn’t try.
Indeed, there are conservatives in name only who should be called out for squishy principles or lack of political courage. However, Republicans should be wary of any one group or person within what used to be called “the big tent party,” appointing themselves the arbiter of who is and who isn’t a real Republican.
Intra-party Inquisitions, vanity politics, vicious social media campaigns, personal vendettas, and nasty labels should be consistently resisted.
Pro-freedom Americans are in a battle for the soul of this nation. Republicans need to keep their eye on the ball. Party divisions depress turnout and push voters to the other side. Republicans can’t carry the mantle of American freedom and unity against the Left without exemplifying it themselves.
• Tom Basile, host of Newsmax Television’s “America Right Now,” is an author and adjunct professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where he teaches earned media strategy.
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