There is certainly a lot of division in the ranks of the Republican Party in 2021.
This past weekend, some at the Utah Republican Party convention booed Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential nominee, over his Republican credentials. During the day on Monday, former president Donald Trump engaged in a public spat with Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, who might soon be voted out of House Republican leadership. On Monday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson went after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and told his conservative audience that McCarthy doesn’t listen to them. Then, to make it even harder to keep track, McCarthy was caught on a hot mic Tuesday complaining about Cheney, saying “I had it with her.”
The squabbles inside of the Republican Party aren’t just about personalities, though. From foreign policy, to whether the government should spend big or small, to whether there is room for an immigration deal, Republicans are divided all over the place.
Some of this is natural. The party out of power should be trying out ideas and arguing about what its future will be. In fact, it is often healthy to have a lot of disagreement, and the 2022 primaries and midterm election should help sort a few things out.
But until then, it is interesting to note where there is unity. There are two areas now where Republicans are retreating for a safe space.
The first is the Trump-driven lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and that major election reforms are needed to prevent it from happening again.
Make no mistake: Relitigating or saying — without evidence — that the 2020 election was stolen is a major unifying statement among Republicans, even seven months after the election. Six in 10 Republicans still believe the election was stolen and more will say that there were significant problems even if they don’t use the word “stolen.”
This has led Republicans in a number of states to try to pass election laws, because at least there is party unity on that issue.
Republicans also are retreating to so-called “culture wars” in an effort to maintain unity. It has been a record-breaking year for legislation seeking to curtail the rights of transgender people, with 100 bills in 33 states aimed at this effort. As Republicans rally behind that, they are also discussing other topics like cancel culture that are not up for a vote anywhere.
What they aren’t discussing while they are focused on culture wars and the 2020 election: Anything that Joe Biden is doing. In a series of three different bills, Biden is proposing to spend so much money (nearly twice the current annual budget) that he could rewrite the American social contract. And while there isn’t a single Republican vote for any of those bills, there also isn’t enough agreement on how to oppose them to mount a consistent opposition from leading Republicans.
They are spending more time aiming fire internally.