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British Conservatives are destroying Boris Johnson. Republicans could learn a thing or two

Perhaps the likes of Ron DeSantis and Kristi Noem could make themselves useful during the next phase of the GOP

Skylar Baker-Jordan
Tennessee
Thursday 20 January 2022 17:02
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“In the name of God, go!”

I felt those words in my bones. As David Davis – a British Member of Parliament and Conservative Party grandee – shouted the Oliver Cromwell quote at a beleaguered Boris Johnson, I was envious. Not only does the British left finally spy the tree line after more than a decade in the political wilderness while the US left can’t even agree on Senate procedure, but they have conservatives who are willing to knife their own bumbling, idiotic leader. What a nation.

For those of you who don’t know — because you’re American, so why would you? — Boris Johnson is in the fight for his political life. The scandal, of his own making, revolves around a series of parties he and his staff may have thrown and/or attended while the rest of the nation was under lockdown at his behest. He claims he didn’t know the rules, even though he wrote the rules. It’s a Trumpian error if I’ve ever seen one: thinking that the rules don’t apply to him, and he can talk his way out of it.

Except, it looks like he may not. While he clings to power, his grip is growing more tenuous by the day. There is every indication Johnson will not survive past the local elections in May — ousted not by the voters, but by members of his own back benches.

That’s a stark contrast to our own conservatives, who by and large continue to kiss the bauble of the man from Mar-a-Lago. It’s pitiful, really, when you consider the ruthlessness — or principles, if you’re feeling generous and naïve — of the British Tories.

Unlike Boris Johnson, Donald Trump has never won a majority. He lost the popular vote in 2016 and lost outright in 2020. Yet Republicans continue to worship him like some sort of fatted golden calf. Even if the Republicans have given up on democracy and embraced authoritarian rule, you would think their own ambition would compel them to go for Trump’s political jugular.

After all, as the New York Times pointed out earlier this week, there can be only one ruler at a time. “Who is the King of Florida?” a headline asked, seemingly forgetting that, despite Trump’s best efforts, kings are a quaint British tradition we Americans eschewed some time ago. The article raises an important point, though. Republicans “are led by a defeated former president who demands total fealty, brooks no criticism and is determined to sniff out, and then snuff out, any threat to his control of the party,” the Times reports.

Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, eying a potential run for the White House in 2024, is increasingly critical of Trump, trying to outflank him from the right on Covid-19. Elsewhere, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is also looking to her political future and finding a giant orange roadblock in the shape of the disgraced former president stands in her way.

To move the seemingly immovable roadblock, she’ll have to destroy it. In any primary featuring Trump, DeSantis or Noem, whoever runs will need to differentiate themselves enough from the former president to convince voters to ditch their old god for a new messiah. They’ll need to do far worse than heckle from the benches. They’ll need to ruthlessly attack the very essence of Donald Trump, his record and his temperament, making the case why we can’t do that again.

For those of us who don’t want to live in an authoritarian hellhole, this is not without risk. Unlike the British Conservatives who want to oust Johnson because he didn’t take Covid restrictions seriously enough — the correct position, I might add — DeSantis thinks running to the right of Trump is the way to defeat him. Indeed, DeSantis famously refused to do much of anything to mitigate the spread of Covid in his state, resisting public health measures and embracing vaccine hesitancy. The thought of an even more right-wing, more competent Trump is terrifying — and something I have warned about before.

It may, however, be our best hope. Republican legislatures across the country are enacting voter suppression laws and redrawing electoral maps to ensure America becomes a one-party state in practice, if not in law. Yet rather than address this existential threat to American democracy head on, last night the Senate voted 52 to 48 to keep the filibuster, with Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema joining 50 Republicans to torpedo any chance of passing voting rights protections.

If we can’t count on the benevolence of Democrats to save us, we must count on the raw ambition of Republicans. You can’t run against the naked emperor if you yourself are nude. Any run for the White House against Trump will require whoever may be brave enough to declare the emperor has no clothes to themselves wear something.

In doing so, DeSantis and Noem could — perhaps unwittingly — discredit not only Trump, but Trumpism, in order to advance their own position. Once the cracks in the Trump wall have formed, they are bound to widen. After all, how can you criticize the things Trump did and then defend doing the exact same thing? It’s a lose-lose situation for the GOP, but a win-win for the country.

It’s a desperate gambit, I know. But it may be our last, best chance. Perhaps unwittingly, by knifing Trump in the back and using his political carcass as a stepping stool to higher office, DeSantis, Noem or any other potential GOP challengers could do what Democrats have failed (or in the case of Manchin and Sinema, seem unwilling) to do: finally exercise Trumpism from the public sphere.

So depart, I say, and let us have done with Trumpism. For the love of God, DeSantis and Noem, run.

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