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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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Jayne: Think again, Clark County GOP

By , Columbian Opinion Page Editor

It’s a bold strategy. Let’s see if it pays off for them.

Rather than laud a member of their party who has been elected to Congress six times, and who is the most prominent Republican from west of the Cascades, and who has drawn plaudits from across the country, the local GOP has attempted political cannibalism.

They are trying to eat their own. They have bitten off more than they can chew.

The Clark County Republican Party last week censured Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for having the temerity to believe that encouraging an attack on the U.S. Capitol is worthy of impeachment. Herrera Beutler was one of 10 Republican House members voting to impeach Donald Trump for failing to prevent or halt the Jan. 6 attack, which seems like a reasonable response when Trump supporters follow his exhortations and try to overthrow the government.

Apparently, local GOP leaders think otherwise. The cult that is the Trump Republican Party is so deranged that standing up for truth and the Constitution is a punishable offense for elected officials. “She violated my trust and it broke my heart,” one precinct committee officer said.

Which probably will be a problem for the Republican Party. Because most Americans, and most Republicans, think that storming the U.S. Capitol is a more egregious violation of trust. Most think that a riot leaving five people dead is more heartbreaking. Most think that the sewer inhabited by the most ardent Trump supporters is not someplace they want to be.

The biggest price to be paid in this intramural infighting is from Republicans of good faith, the party supporters who believe in small government and conservative values while still embracing the truth and dignity that has been eschewed by Trump supporters. The next biggest price is from those who support Trump’s policies but draw the line at trying to destroy our democracy.

And the invoice for those people is to be left without a functioning political party. An analysis from the New York Times found that nearly 140,000 Republicans from 25 states with readily available data changed their registration in the three weeks after the Capitol riot. Among them: Oregon’s Knute Buehler, who not only was the party’s candidate for governor in 2018 but said this month: “I don’t know what the Republican Party stands for. It’s almost become a cult of personality. Is it possible to re-correct? Absolutely. There’s lots of potential both nationally and in Oregon if they do it right.”

In Washington, voters don’t register by party, so it is impossible to track the migration. But as one reasonable Republican supporter told me following the seditious riot at the Capitol: “I don’t know how a party comprised of by angry, old, mostly white people can survive. It’s not sustainable.”

Which brings up the GOP’s previous spat with Herrera Beutler. In 2015, the county party considered censuring her, essentially for not being Republican enough; they settled on a resolution calling for the “monitoring” of elected officials’ performance. At the time, the congresswoman wrote a letter to precinct committee officers saying, “A movement can’t grow if it is more concerned with burning heretics than winning converts.”

Which is precisely the point. The Trump faction of the party is so intent on burning heretics that it keeps lighting itself on fire. Since that 2015 dustup, Herrera Beutler has been elected three more times. She faced a primary challenge from the right in 2014; that candidate received 14 percent of the vote. She faced another in 2018; that candidate received 5.5 percent.

It’s not that Herrera Beutler is untouchable. It’s just that the Clark County Republican Party is looking for vulnerabilities in all the wrong places. In the process it is isolating itself from a majority of voters.

The guess is that Herrera Beutler’s noble impeachment vote garnered more support than it lost. Washington’s top-two primary encourages good government rather than extremists on either side.

Which means the Clark County Republican Party might want to rethink its strategy.