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The Mar-a-Lago raid revealed something interesting about both Republicans and Democrats

Most of the disagreements within the GOP tend to be about rhetoric and tactics, while the end goals remain fundamentally the same. Democrats, conversely, do in fact have substantive policy differences

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Friday 12 August 2022 09:19 BST
Related: Justice Department asks court to unseal Trump Mar-a-Lago estate FBI search warrant

When it emerged that the FBI had executed a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, everyone from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene began lambasting the Justice Department and the bureau. The main difference was that while McCarthy said Attorney General Merrick Garland should clear his schedule for investigations after the GOP takes control of Congress, Greene went further and called for the FBI to be defunded.

Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — whose relationship with Trump since the 2020 election has been frosty to nonexistent – released a short statement saying simply that Garland and the DOJ “should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately”.

All the while, House Democrats are getting on with things. This Friday they will pass the Inflation Reduction Act – which would combat climate change, allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs, cap the price of insulin for Medicare recipients, and continue subsidies for Obamacare – after more than a year struggling to agree some kind of social spending bill that their razor-thin majorities can get through without any Republican support.

Still, the process has hardly been drama-free. Even as most Senate Democrats agreed to oppose any amendments during this weekend’s vote-a-rama, Kyrsten Sinema nearly threw the caucus into chaos when she voted for a Republican amendment that could have jeopardized the legislation. Doing so required her Democratic colleague Mark Warner to step in with a substitute amendment to ensure the package could pass the House.

These dramas unfolding simultaneously across the aisle from each other reveal the fundamental difference between the two parties. Most of the disagreements within the GOP tend to be about rhetoric and tactics, while the end goals remain fundamentally the same. Democrats, conversely, do in fact have substantive policy differences alongside their rhetorical differences. And that has forced their leaders into intense and protracted negotiations with their different factions, and even individual members.

The legislation that Democrats hope to pass this Friday is the product of down-to-the-wire talks between Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. It’s a far cry from the Build Back Better package that President Joe Biden and many progressive Democrats put together last year, a behemoth of a bill that would have included an expanded child tax credit, childcare, universal preschool education, home care for elderly people and people with disabilities, and affordable housing.

And yet, even at a fraction at a price and with a starkly slimmed-down social agenda, the bill looks set to pass the House anyway. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a “Dear Colleague” letter, her chamber will be solely focused on passing the IRA while Democrats are still negotiating on beefing up police funding.

Conversely, almost all nationally known Republicans are publicly fuming about the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago. Even Governors Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and Larry Hogan of Maryland, both of whom lead Democratic-leaning states and make no secret about their national ambitions, put out statements expressing their consternation. Youngkin directly criticized the search and Hogan called for the FBI to be transparent about it.

It’s a pattern playing out across the country, and not just when it comes to the FBI raid. However stark their supposed differences, most of Trump’s acolytes and critics are in fact on (almost) the same page.

In Arizona’s gubernatorial race, GOP voters nominated former news anchor and current election denier Kari Lake for the November election. GOP incumbent Doug Ducey, whom Trump loathes for not overturning the 2020 election results, told CNN that Lake “is misleading voters with no evidence” and said she had earned the moniker “Fake Lake”. But when she won the primary, Ducey announced he would support her.

Similarly, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who hopes to inherit the MAGA base if Trump doesn’t run again in 2024 or perhaps even win it by defeating the former president in a presidential primary, is planning to campaign with Doug Mastriano, the extremist Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania.

DeSantis is often seen as someone who could offer what is sometimes called “competent Trumpism”, and the donor class has started inching toward him. Mastriano is an openly theocratic conspiracy theorist who attended the violent Capitol riot and this week flounced out of a meeting with the January 6 select committee after only 15 minutes. For DeSantis to hitch his wagon to Mastriano might seem off-brand, but in the end, they share the same fundamental goal: power.

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