Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, was so appalled by Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack that he signaled to colleagues shortly afterward that he was open to convicting Trump in an impeachment trial — and barring him from holding office again. A month later, however, McConnell voted to acquit him.
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, told colleagues in the days after Jan. 6 that he was going to call Trump and urge him to resign. But McCarthy soon changed his mind and instead told House members to stop criticizing Trump in public.
By now, this pattern is familiar. (It’s a central theme of “This Will Not Pass,” a new book about the end of Trump’s presidency, by my colleagues Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin, which broke the news of McCarthy’s comments.)
Many prominent Republicans have criticized Trump, sometimes in harsh terms, for fomenting violence, undermining democracy or making racist comments. Privately, these Republicans have been even harsher, saying they disdain Trump and want him gone from politics.
But they ultimately are unwilling to stand up to him. They believe that doing so will jeopardize their future in the Republican Party, given Trump’s continued popularity with the party’s voters. “Republican lawmakers fear that confronting Trump, or even saying in public how they actually feel about him, amounts to signing their political death warrant,” Jonathan Martin told me. “For most of them, it’s not more complicated than that.”
There have been only a few exceptions. If you follow politics, you can probably tick off the most prominent names: Liz Cheney, the House member from Wyoming; Mitt Romney, a senator representing Utah; and Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland.
All three of them happen to have something in common: They grew up around politics, as the children of nationally known officials.
A long-term view
Liz Cheney’s father, Dick, capped a long political career by serving as vice president, and her mother, Lynne, was a high-profile chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Mitt Romney’s father, George, was a presidential candidate, cabinet secretary and governor of Michigan. Larry Hogan’s father, Lawrence, was the only Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to vote for each article of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
Together, the three make up “a kind of shadow conscience of the party,” as Mark Leibovich, now an Atlantic writer, has put it.
Other than their stance on Trump, the three have many differences. They come from different political generations — Romney, who’s 75, has run for president twice, while Hogan, 65, and Cheney, 55, did not hold elected office until the past decade. They also have different ideologies. Cheney is deeply conservative on most policy questions, while Hogan is a moderate, and Romney is somewhere in between.
If anything, these differences make their shared family histories more telling. All three are treating politics as involving something larger than the next election or their own career ambitions. They have a multigenerational view of the Republican Party and American democracy. They expect that both will be around after they have left the scene — as they have watched their parents experience.
That view has led all of them to prioritize their honest opinion about Trump over their career self-interest.
In Hogan’s case, the stance arguably brings little downside, because he governs a blue state and is barred from running for a third term. But Cheney has already lost her post as a Republican House leader and faces a primary challenge from a candidate both Trump and McCarthy support. Romney will likely face his own challenge in 2024.
“Unlike the bulk of their colleagues who are eager to remain in office, Romney and Cheney have decided continuing to serve in Congress is not worth the bargain of remaining silent about an individual they believe poses a threat to American democracy,” Jonathan told me. “They also can’t understand why Republican colleagues they respect don’t share their alarm.”
In an interview for Jonathan’s and Alex’s book, Cheney specifically mentions her disappointment with McConnell: “I think he’s completely misjudged the danger of this moment.”
Last night’s elections
Nebraska and West Virginia held primaries last night, and they produced a split decision for Trump’s preferred candidates.
In West Virginia, where redistricting forced two Republican House members to face each other, Alex Mooney beat David McKinley. Trump had endorsed Mooney.
McKinley had the support of both the Republican governor, Jim Justice, and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. McKinley had recently voted for President Biden’s infrastructure law and for the creation of a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission.
Mooney received 54 percent of the vote, to McKinley’s 36 percent.
In Nebraska’s Republican primary for governor, Jim Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent, won, with 33 percent of the vote, despite not having Trump’s support.
Trump instead backed Charles Herbster, an agribusiness executive who attended the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 attack; multiple women have accused Herbster of groping them. Herbster received 30 percent of the vote.
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F1 in America
Formula 1, an international motor-racing sport, attracts a global audience. Historically, its attempts to break through in the U.S., where NASCAR reigns supreme, haven’t been very successful — until now.
In 2017, Liberty Media, an American company, purchased Formula 1. Liberty executives saw it as “one of the few truly global sports, on the scale of FIFA or the Olympics, that could still capture a gigantic live audience,” Austin Carr writes in Bloomberg.
In the years since, the sport’s footprint in the U.S. has grown. The Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive,” which focuses on the drivers’ personalities, is among the most popular shows on the platform. The sport is adding new races in the U.S. — in Miami this year and Las Vegas next year — and viewership is higher than ever for ESPN’s broadcasts.
Before the Netflix show premiered in 2019, the driver Daniel Ricciardo said one or two fans would recognize him in the U.S. “At customs when I landed in the States, I’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m an F1 driver,’ and they’d ask, ‘Is that like NASCAR?’ ” Ricciardo told Bloomberg. “After the first season, every day I was out somewhere someone would come up being like, ‘I saw you on that show!’”
For more: Take a 3-D tour of a Formula 1 car.