Republican civil war

Republican civil war

"There's no question, none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking" the January 6 Capitol building riot. That attack was the "foreseeable consequence of the crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on the Earth."

So said Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, US Senate Republican leader since 2006, just after voting last Saturday to acquit the president of high crimes and misdemeanors following Trump's Senate impeachment trial.

On Tuesday, Trump punched back. "Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again." On Thursday, the pro-Trump chairman of Kentucky's Republican Party called on McConnell to resign as Republican leader.

The battle is joined.


Trump remains a powerful political force. Even in defeat, he won 74 million votes for president last year, the second highest total of any candidate in US history. Even after two impeachments, some 75 percent of Republican voters said in a recent poll that they want him to continue to "play a prominent role in the Republican Party," and 87 percent say he should be allowed to "hold elected office in the future." Trump may not have Twitter, but he has many other available megaphones in social media and cable TV. He will not be silenced.

What does this mean for the party? The GOP has descended into an all-out civil war that will rage in plain sight for years to come. McConnell and his allies have weapons too. They can help direct large amounts of campaign cash toward the establishment-friendly Republican candidates they believe stand the best chance of beating Democrats in the 2022 midterms, and if the party regains its Senate majority, McConnell will again control the legislative agenda. Trump, in turn, will barnstorm across the country in support of insurgent candidates who distinguish themselves mainly by their fealty to him and their commitment to continuous culture war combat.

The first GOP civil war battle will be waged later this year in Virginia's gubernatorial election, where leading Republican candidates include a long-time state legislator, a business executive, and a pro-Trump firebrand who spoke at the January 6 rally that triggered the Capitol insurrection and has publicly hailed the rioters as "patriots."

Then we move to the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans need a net gain of five seats to win back a majority in the House of Representatives and of just one to reclaim the Senate. In state after state, Trump insurgents will face off with establishment Republicans.

No major American political party has faced an internal fight of this magnitude and consequence in more than a century.

Trump's legal troubles will up the stakes. He'll likely face a series of legal challenges in coming months over his business affairs, charges that he tried to overturn the election result in particular states, and possibly criminal responsibility for the Capitol rampage. That story will remain in the news all year as more than 140 of the rioters now face federal charges and more will likely follow. Trump will use Republican responses to these courtroom dramas as litmus tests of loyalty to his vision of the party's future.

He may also threaten to sink the GOP by forming a third party. In a poll conducted last month, 64 percent of registered Republican voters said they would "likely" follow Trump if he does, and 32 percent said they'd be "very likely."

Will there be a winner in this civil war? The first clue will come in the 2022 midterms, when the GOP candidates who survive primary battles face Republican, Democratic, and independent voters. The results of those races will tell us what kind of candidate will carry the Republican banner forward into the 2024 presidential election and what kind of party the GOP will become.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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