Staff Columnist

Turn out the lights, the Grand Old Party's over

Biden will be president, but the Trump era has inflicted lasting damage on our political system

Audience members listen as Donald Trump, Jr., speaks in support of his father, President Donald Trump, during a campaign
Audience members listen as Donald Trump, Jr., speaks in support of his father, President Donald Trump, during a campaign stop at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

I recently joked that I am the most prominent Iowa Republican to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. Sadly, it wasn’t much of a joke.

Three weeks after the election, no statewide elected official, federal office holder or state legislative leader from the Iowa GOP has publicly recognized Biden as president-elect. For lack of competition, the disgruntled right-wing columnist at the state’s second largest newspaper makes the list of top Republicans honoring the election results.

It’s hardly a surprise in Iowa, the state where the GOP establishment and activist class fell hardest in line with President Donald Trump. For more than four years, since Trump secured the presidential nomination in 2016, there has been no meaningful difference between the party line and the Trump agenda.

The Republican Party of Iowa convened a virtual central committee meeting on Nov. 14, a full week after major news organizations such as the Associated Press called the race for Biden. At the meeting, members passed resolutions supporting Trump and his challenge of election results.

The Iowa GOP “enthusiastically and unconditionally supports” Trump, according to the new resolutions. It’s a declaration of fealty fit for a monarchy, not a constitutional republic such as ours.

There are irregularities in every election and they demand scrutiny. But Trump, turning up insufficient evidence of widespread fraud or misconduct, is resorting to wild conspiracy theories with no apparent basis in reality. When the Trump team sends lawyers to court, they’re not sending their best.

Outside Iowa, Republicans are slowly coming to grips with reality.

The Republican governors of Ohio, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts and Utah all have stated unequivocally that Biden is the president-elect. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse have done the same, along with about a dozen GOP U.S. representatives, according to a list published by Axios. Several more Republican politicians have implicitly acknowledged Biden will be the next president.

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It’s something of a flashback to the 2016 election aftermath, when both sides pedaled tenuous allegations of an illegitimate election. I worry this is the new normal: Every part of collective American life, even election results, now is an exercise in factionalism, where our view of the facts is motivated by our political allegiances, not the other way around.

Partisan confidence in the process took a sharp pivot after the election. In late September, about 39 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats said they were not confident that the contest would be conducted fairly, according to a Monmouth University poll.

By mid-November, the figure shot up to 76 percent of Republicans and down to 8 percent of Democrats, in the same poll conducted two weeks after the election. It’s hard to imagine those shifts were based on a thoughtful analysis of the facts.

Whether Trump concedes or not, Biden is set to become president next Jan. 20. I expect and pray for a peaceful transition of power, but the damage has already been done.

The great Willie Nelson said it best: “Call it a night. The party’s over. And tomorrow starts the same old thing again.”

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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