Why the conventional analysis of Republican politics is wrong

Note: The following was drafted in early January, days after the invasion of the Capitol, days before Trump officially left office. Having just reread the draft, I believe it still has merit.

The conventional analysis of elected Republican politics goes something like this:

Most of the elected Republicans stuck with Trump even during his most heinous days—through active support or silence—because they feared the electoral wrath of him and his base. Their prime directive was to stay in office. Not a profile in courage or integrity, but a simple path anyone might understand if not condone: keep your job.

The actual story is more like this:

Many elected Republicans believe that the only future for America is one in which the forces of progressivism—even moderate moves toward equity and fairness—are turned around. They initially opposed and criticized Trump. But once they had to accept him in power, they saw that he could be useful for that plan. Yes, his behavior in office was extreme and distasteful. But it was a small price to pay for restoring America to its former glory.

So while Trump and his conduct are more reprehensible and toxic than ever, we read this headline from the Washington Post, days after the storming of the Capitol:

“Republicans largely silent about consequences of deadly attack and Trump’s role in inciting it.”

Of course they are largely silent. They are holding their fire as they wait for the emergence of a smarter, smoother, more attractive demagogue. Where, for example, is George Wallace when you need him?

So Republicans remain patient and, with some exception, silent or equivocal. They never wanted an invasion of the citadel of American democracy, nor did they want anyone to be killed. All they want is a captain to steer the ship of state in the right direction—one who isn’t quite so problematic and crazy. Next stop 2024.