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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger fought Trump for the soul of his party. Trump won.

As the Republican Party continues to purge and cannibalize, President Joe Biden’s administration has worked hard to be a presidency for all Americans. In fact, the same week Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump, announced he would not be seeking re-election, the Senate confirmed Biden’s appointments of former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain as ambassadors within his administration. Well-known Trump critics, Biden endorsers and Arizonans, Flake and McCain were often targets of Trump during his presidency and throughout the 2020 campaign.

Flake noted this summer that his nomination “reaffirms the best tradition of American foreign policy and diplomacy: the credo that partisan politics should stop at the water’s edge.” Adding, “U.S. foreign policy can and should be bipartisan.” I agree.

While the GOP is blindly allowing Trump to remain its leader, the former president has taken on the uncontested role of kingmaker.

While the GOP is blindly allowing Trump to remain its leader, the former president has taken on the uncontested role of kingmaker and pushed an agenda designed to rid the GOP of any elected officials or candidates who have openly criticized him. Clearly, Trump, the Trump machine and his influence should not be underestimated. It’s obvious that Trump is continuing to push the narrative at his rallies that the election was stolen. And he’s giving endorsements to candidates who support these unfounded claims.

Not surprisingly, Trump critics such as Kinzinger have found themselves in hot water with Republican leadership. And Kinzinger isn’t the only casualty: We’ve seen this same cycle play out with other Republicans such as Flake, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, former Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse. All of these outspoken lawmakers have been punished, such as through the stripping away of their leadership roles or Trump endorsements of candidates that would make their re-election nearly impossible or social media pressure tactics.

While it’s disheartening to see these elected officials lambasted and pushed out of a party they’ve desperately — and bravely— tried to fix, it also should serve as a final wake-up call for leadership: The GOP is no longer the GOP of the Bushes, Ronald Reagan, Mitt Romney and John McCain. It is now the party of Trump. The GOP used to be a party that was rooted in “country first,” but now it’s putting the political ambitions of one man above all. While the anti-democratic violence of Jan. 6 should’ve led to a clean Republican break with Trump, the party has instead doubled down on its support. Even now, Republicans are pledging allegiance to flags from that day.

But arguably more concerning is the void the departure of men and women like Kinzinger will leave behind. Who will be left to criticize and speak out?

Although I’m glad some former Trump critics are finding homes within the Biden administration, I can only hope they will continue to use their positions, platforms and voices to fight back against the ills and efforts of a party that has abandoned them.

As Republican leadership has embraced Trump, they have shown their true colors. These spineless cowards have embraced an egotistical despot and abandoned their guiding principles for false idols. The hijacking of the Republican Party by Trump, who isn’t and never has been a real Republican, will hurt the party for years to come and will ensure its position on the wrong side of history.


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