Opinion

As Trump prepares to run again, Kansas Republicans should purge their party of authoritarian threat

October 18, 2021 3:33 am

Supporters of President Donald Trump riot Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election. (Alex Kent/Tennessee Lookout)

Allow me to make some predictions:

Donald Trump will run for president in 2024.

Donald Trump will earn the Republican nomination for president in 2024.

If Donald Trump loses the popular vote, as he might, he will claim the contest was rigged and demand that state officials do whatever it takes to overturn the results.

So allow me to ask a question of every Republican elected official in Kansas right now, some three years before Americans cast their ballots in the next presidential election.

What will you do when that happens?

If the standard bearer in your party is once again a philandering, bankrupt real estate tycoon exiled to Florida, will you support his lies? Are you willing to shred the Constitution to feed his fathomless need for praise? Are you willing to usher in a new dark age for America, one blighted by civil unrest and a government that no longer even tries to gain support from a majority?

In his first term as president, Trump was surrounded by flunkies and yes men, but a small number held strong against his onslaught in his final days. Across the nation, election officials stood firm against attempts to overturn the will of the public. Things were bad, yes, but nowhere near as bad as they could have been.

The next time will be worse. Trump’s minions have methodically picked off those same election officials, backing others eager to do their leader’s bidding. And the deposed king will no longer tolerate those who might challenge him while in office. He will surround himself with the most eager lawbreakers, the most craven toadies.

While campaigning the last time, Trump speculated about running for additional terms as president. Does anyone seriously think he will be restrained from doing so by the silly Constitution? Can you imagine the response of his most demented supporters if he orders them to make it so? 

They were prepared to stop the electoral count Jan. 6, after all.

None of this is original to me. None of this is difficult to foresee. Others have made the case with far more detail and nuance.

Our state was founded in more challenging times than these. Kansas was created as our nation split asunder, with those who valued keeping other human beings as property willing to kill and die for their barbarism. Abolitionists kept Kansas free, despite raids and fires and deaths. When the time came, we stood true.

– Clay Wirestone

But Kansas leaders should be put on the spot, right now. You will all be tested when these events occur. Your party will put tremendous pressure on you to conform. You will be asked to follow Trump or fall silent, to attach your well-being to his.

Will you be willing to do so?

Our state was founded in more challenging times than these. Kansas was created as our nation split asunder, with those who valued keeping other human beings as property willing to kill and die for their barbarism. Abolitionists kept Kansas free, despite raids and fires and deaths. When the time came, we stood true.

I hope we won’t face such disruption again. Yet when surveys are taken, the numbers suggest that millions would support political violence. Our social media environments, in which misinformation is amplified and “engagement” prized, encourage ever more extreme positions. 

This outcome is by no means inevitable. Perhaps Trump won’t run, or perhaps the guardrails will hold again. Perhaps he will win legitimately.

Perhaps.

Yet the chance that our nation will be sorely tested again, and so soon, should unnerve us. What irks me most is that the leaders of our country could have avoided this altogether.

Everyone understood that Trump was a charlatan in 2015. He was a disaster as president. No one can avoid either conclusion. He could have been expelled from the party like the parasite he was. Barring that, he could have been convicted in his impeachment trials and then barred from holding public office again.

Yet with precious few exceptions, Republicans have never summoned the courage to purge their once-proud party of this poisonous pretender. So many intelligent, sensible, business-oriented folks have thrown in the towel and made their peace with Trump. Even the iconic former Kansas senator, Bob Dole, was willing to lend his support.

This cannot stand. Either our country will decide, finally, to be rid of Trump and those would tarnish our democratic experiment for their personal gain, or we will face an indefinite span of years with his tiny hands on the levers of power. I’ve no doubt that America and our ideals will endure, but at what cost?

Kansas could lead the way.

We should lead the way.

Kansas GOP leaders need only muster up the courage to do so.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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