Why do Republican Political Leaders Continue to Support Trump?
By Hal Shepherd
Former President Donald Trump’s hate speech and violent rhetoric have gotten so bad lately that it has brought comparisons to fascist dictators of the past. In his now infamous “Vermin” speech last Veterans Day, for example, Trump said that he would “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” Making a comparison to what would have been common in Nazi Germany, the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times said these “words are repugnant for their historical connections to acts of racism, slaughter, and populist dictatorship.”
One example of the threat to democracy, should Trump become the next president (again), is illustrated by the Insurrection Act, which authorizes the President to deploy the military in communities to act as a domestic police force under his/her direct command. According to an opinion piece in the New York Times, the Act, adopted in 1792, is very broad and has virtually no oversight and “would give Trump enormous latitude to wield the staggering power of the state against his domestic political enemies.” Similarly, while Trump’s brand of lies, hate, and intimidation illustrate that he has always had fascist leanings, “his policy operation is now more sophisticated than his last presidency, and the buffers to check him are weaker.”
One can envision more reasonable republican politicians secretly burying their heads in the hands after this and every other increasingly vomit-spewing remark from the mouth of the lead GOP nominee for the 2024 presidential campaign. Yet, assuming these same politicians understand the catastrophe that would occur if Trump does return to the Whitehouse, why do they continue to openly support him?
One way this continuing support manifests itself in Alaska is that, even after becoming the first former president to be the subject of multiple state and federal criminal indictments, the State’s political leadership continues to carry out Trump’s disastrous environmental policies and spread misinformation to make this possible. This is best illustrated by ongoing support of the former president’s efforts to open up millions of acres in the State to mining, and oil and gas development even as the State’s ecosystems began to collapse under the impacts of climate change.
The intense lobbying from the Alaska Delegation, made up of Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and democrat representative Mary Peltola, was a major factor in the Biden Administration’s approval in March of 2023 of the Willow oil and gas drilling project – One of Trump’s favorite projects. Referred to by conservationists, Alaska Native communities, and young people as a “Carbon Bomb,” the Alaskan Delegation, nonetheless, lobbied the administration to approve the development because of the short-term economic boon and jobs it would create.
An early version of the Delegation made up of Murkowski, Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young was similarly furious after the Department of the Interior under Biden announced a re-evaluation of the Trump administration’s 11th-hour effort to open twenty-eight million acres of Alaska public lands to development. In an April 2021 press release, the Delegation claimed that the extension was merely a political move “despite the years of analysis and public process already completed supporting the decision to [lift] these withdrawal restrictions.” In reality, despite the enormous impact that mining and other development would have on water and subsistence resources over such a vast acreage, the Trump administration rushed through the planning process, including environmental analysis, in order to make good on political promises before he left office. Senator Murkowski, who has been leading Trump’s agenda to open BLM land in Alaska to industrial development, has even proposed legislation to go around Biden, which is expected to be taken up by the Senate next year.
Sure, we all know that going up against big oil and mining is the kiss of death to a political career in Alaska, and that the reason a majority of the Republican leadership won’t denounce Trump is because they are afraid of his base. But there’s still something not right about the GOP in Alaska’s noticeable silence no matter what vitriol comes out of Trump’s mouth while continuing to promote anti-Biden rhetoric – the one presidential candidate who has any chance of preventing the catastrophe of another Trump presidency from occurring.
As Trump becomes more and more unhinged and the threats to democracy that he stands for loom nearer, we need to ask Alaska’s republican politicians to set aside their interest in maintaining their own political power and speak out against this tyrant, even if it means going up against their own party. And if they cannot do that, at least stop spreading Trump-style misinformation about Biden, at least until after the 2024 election is over and done with.