Since taking office as borough president in 2014, Adams has had designs on the top job at City Hall. And in the intervening years, he has steered hundreds of thousands of dollars into an ethical gray area where charity and self-aggrandizement intermingle — with fundraising practices that have drawn the scrutiny of investigators and government watchdog groups.
The yearslong boost to Adams’ name recognition is now coming in handy as the June 22 Democratic mayoral primary approaches: His campaign strategy relies on besting the competition in key areas of his home borough.
The spending that has boosted the candidate and his causes has come from both his office as borough president, the banners being a highly visible example, and a charity he created called One Brooklyn Fund. Adams controls the nonprofit, which is partially staffed with employees of his office and allowed the use of Brooklyn Borough Hall, a municipal building.
There is precedent in New York for non-profits to exist alongside official government operations. Mayor Bill de Blasio got in hot water over fundraising for the now defunct Campaign for One New York. Former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz had a nonprofit tied to his office that similarly raised eyebrows. And the city’s Department of Education, Law Department and Emergency Management agency, for example, all have affiliated nonprofits that are controlled by public officials.
“We’re excited,” Adams told the Daily News shortly after the city cleared One Brooklyn’s creation in 2014. “The beauty here is we’re not trying to raise money to put on a full-time staff. The donations we’re raising will go directly to the people.”
The nonprofit, whose budget is typically between $300,000 and $500,000, does plenty of charitable work throughout the year. But money from the organization has also been spent on high-end fundraisers that raised little money, marketing materials that promote Adams’ name and image and awards given out to prominent businesses and constituents — some of whom later donated to his mayoral campaign.
Charities affiliated with elected officials — such as Adams’ predecessor Markowitz — have for years raised fears that they serve as thinly veiled excuses to promote a politician’s name recognition, even as they operate fully within the law.
Since One Brooklyn’s creation in 2014, the organization has put on all manner of community events. It has given away turkeys, coats and school supplies. It organizes luncheons and karaoke contests for seniors and financial literacy events for students, and it connects constituents with social service providers such as citizenship lawyers. It also runs a tourism center in Borough Hall.
“For the past 7.5 years, Brooklyn Borough Hall — The People’s House — has been open to the public to share resources and information around a variety of subjects including health and wellness, cultural diversity, the arts, financial literacy, and services for all constituents,” One Brooklyn board Chair Peter Aschkenasy wrote in a statement.
However, a POLITICO review of state financial disclosures shows that One Brooklyn devotes serious resources to causes that blur the line between uplifting communities and Adams’ public profile.
For three years beginning in 2017, the nonprofit hosted an annual gala at the Brooklyn Museum. The catered affair featured celebrity emcees hailing from Kings County and awards given out to businesses from around the borough. While the event was described as a fundraiser, information provided by the nonprofit show that nearly 70 percent of the money received in 2017 and 2018 went right back into paying for the evenings’ trappings.
“That is totally inappropriate,” said Toni Goodale, a nonprofit and fundraising consultant, who noted that costs for galas and fundraisers should typically run between 30 and 40 percent of total receipts. “There is so much work involved in putting these on. The nonprofit is taking away time that the staff could be devoting toward its mission.”
The 2017 Gala raised more than $90,000 but cost more than $63,500 to put on. The proceeds made up less than 10 percent of One Brooklyn’s total revenue that year.
“Why even do it?” Goodale asked.
One Brooklyn said the gala, in addition to raising money, also honors the contributions of longtime businesses in the borough.
“For many, it was the first time being recognized for their years of dedication to their local neighborhoods, and this was also an occasion for them to network with their fellow small business owners,” Aschkenasy said in a statement.
The annual soirees allow Adams to hold forth from the lectern, give out awards to business owners and prominent community members — a handful of whom later donated to his campaign — and pose for grip-and-grin photos with honorees. It is a formula the charity has often repeated.
Throughout the year, One Brooklyn hosts cultural events at Borough Hall that have included celebrations of Latino, Caribbean and Russian heritage along with Black History month. Registration documents filed with the state show that more than a third of the organization’s time is spent working on these gatherings, the biggest single component of its mission.
One Brooklyn billed the free events, which typically feature a performance and food, as important work highlighting the borough’s diversity. But they also serve as a venue for Adams to curry favor with key constituencies. More than two dozen honorees from Borough Hall events have donated to Adams’ mayoral campaign, according to information provided by One Brooklyn and public records, an indication that the gatherings have helped him make inroads into important voting blocs.
One Brooklyn also gives out small grants each year to nonprofits including churches, mosques and synagogues around the borough. And around a dozen of those recipients were among the 200 clergy members who endorsed Adams in January, according to the nonprofit’s records.
The nonprofit said political considerations do not factor into its decisions.
“Suggesting that political goodwill is a consideration of the work of [One Brooklyn Fund] is disparaging to [the nonprofit’s] board of directors and the tens of thousands of people it has directly served through its mission,” Aschkenasy, the board chair, said in a statement. He added that all of the organization’s activities are legal and have been authorized by the city’s ethics agency.
The pageantry of Borough Hall cultural events pales in comparison to a pair of popular concert series that the Borough President’s office coordinates each summer in Flatbush and Coney Island featuring major acts including Monica and Wyclef Jean — another legacy of the Markowitz era. Adams appears on advertisements for the free shows, serves as host and ensures a healthy stream of public funding to underwrite the productions.
Financial disclosure documents show several years in which the borough president’s office gave $100,000 to one of the third-party nonprofits that orchestrate the shows, which receive additional funding from the city’s official tourism arm and other agencies. A deputy from Adams’ office also reaches out to Council members each year to ask that they help fund the performances with discretionary budget money, according to multiple lawmakers familiar with the interactions. Between 2014 and the last budget cycle, Council members on friendly terms with Adams, the borough’s Council delegation and the speaker’s office earmarked $775,000 to the nonprofits that put on the concerts, according to budget documents.
“The previous borough president spent the vast majority of discretionary expense funding on the concert series,” Ryan Lynch, a spokesperson for Adams, said in an email. “The current Borough President believes that he could better support communities and neighborhoods through partnerships with his colleagues in the City Council, as colleagues in government often do.”
The exact benefit to Adams’ name recognition and political prospects are hard to quantify. Hosting community events, promoting diversity and letting constituents know who did the legwork is all fair game for elected officials, according to Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York. And it’s difficult to say how much self-promotion is too much.
“It’s very difficult to draw a bright line,” she said. “Which is why I believe there needs to be at a minimum very bright sunshine in terms of disclosures, and that this be recognized as a way of access.”
Because it is affiliated with Adams, One Brooklyn is required to disclose donations topping $5,000 to the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board. The nonprofit also provided POLITICO with a list of businesses who gave below $5,000, but not individuals.
The accounting, though incomplete, has shown the organization has engaged in some questionable fundraising activities.
One Brooklyn charges organizations to use Borough Hall for events that are co-hosted with Adams’ office outside normal business hours, even though the building is public property. Groups wishing to rent out municipal space typically pay the city a set fee to ensure equitable treatment and revenues go straight to the general fund to be doled out through the budget process.
The nonprofit says the cash is diverted to a separate bank account used to pay City Hall for the costs of using the building along with the purchase of certain equipment and furniture. The arrangement between One Brooklyn and the de Blasio administration brought in around $300,000 between 2014 and 2018, again raising concerns among government watchdogs.
“You should not be paying a charity that is under the control of an elected official for the use of a public facility,” Lerner said
Multiple reports indicate that One Brooklyn has also accepted significant money from organizations seeking favor with his office and donors with business before the city, a practice that led to multiple investigations into de Blasio and his affiliated nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York.
The records made available by One Brooklyn Thursday show in 2014, a limited-liability company controlled by Heritage Equity Partners made a donation to Adams’ nonprofit. A year later, the development team applied for a special permit related to a massive office project in Williamsburg, and a year after that Adams recommended the application be approved as part of his role in the land use review process.
Toby Moskovits, head of Heritage Equity Partners, also donated $2,500 to Adams’ borough president reelection campaign and then $320 to his mayoral campaign, according to public filings. Moskovits did not respond to a request for comment.
One Brooklyn said donors are told their contributions will have no bearing on decisions from the borough president’s office.
“The big question for watchdogs is whether donors are attempting to buy influence from an elected official,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany. “That can come in a lot of forms: are they attempting to buy influence by donating to an official’s favorite nonprofit? Or a nonprofit that they control? And this is of course a concern with One Brooklyn.”
Erin Durkin contributed to this report.
‘I have reassessed’: Former Pentagon official now says Trump may not have incited riot
Miller echoed the same message.
“I had all the authority I needed, and I knew what had to happen,” the former defense official said, adding that Trump had given him that authority in the days before the riot.
“I think that the lack of direct communication from President Trump speaks volumes,” Maloney said.
Sparks flew between Democrats on the panel and the Trump appointees as lawmakers accused Miller of changing his account to sound more favorable to Trump and faulted Rosen for refusing to discuss his conversations with the president, as well as for dramatic events at the Justice Department in the days leading up to the riot.
While Miller said in a media interview and in his prepared statement for Wednesday’s hearing that Trump encouraged the protesters on Jan. 6, he took a different tack in his live testimony.
“I think now I would say that is not the unitary factor at all…I have reassessed,” Miller said. “It seems clear there was an organized assault element in place that was going to assault regardless of what the president said.”
Miller also went further than Rosen, seemingly defending Trump by insisting that the former president fulfilled his constitutional duties in connection with the storming of the Capitol, which took place as Congress was scheduled to certify the electoral vote.
When asked to assess whether heated political rhetoric was to blame for the riot, Miller painted in very broad strokes and didn’t point a finger at Trump. “I think the entire entertainment, media, political complex is culpable in creating this environment that is just intolerable and needs to change,” the former defense chief said.
When Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said Miller had reversed himself, Miller replied: “Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Lynch shot back.
“Thank you for your thoughts,” Miller responded.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) also lambasted Miller over his claims that he is proud of “every decision” he made on Jan. 6.
“I have never been more offended on this committee by a witness statement than yours. You were more concerned about defending your own reputation and justifying your own actions than the sanctity of this Capitol and the sanctity of our democracy,” Khanna said.
When Miller began his answer by praising the service of the troops at the Capitol, Khanna cut him off: “Your pugnacious style is not going to override the democratic process. Learn to respect it.”
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) seemed angry about Miller‘s stance.
“It’s almost like the military saying, ‘Sure, we lost the battle, but we carried out our plan perfectly,’“ Quigley said. “I had colleagues saying, when does the f-ing cavalry get here? You lost and you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to own up to your part of the responsibility.“
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) suggested Miller was shifting his position to curry favor with Trump. “Maybe the wrath of Donald Trump came down upon you,” she said. “That is disgusting.“
Rosen, who has been publicly silent since Jan. 6 except for a couple of written statements and a prerecorded Justice Department video released a week after the riot, said Justice officials he did not name had instructed him not to speak about his conversations with Trump.
“I cannot tell you, consistent with my obligations today, about private conversations with the president one way or another,” Rosen said in response to a question from Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) about whether Trump had pressed him to take action on election fraud claims.
“We had an unprecedented insurrection that led to seven deaths. Five here and two suicides, and you are saying this is a privileged communication?” Connolly replied. “I think the American people are entitled to answer, Mr. Rosen.”
Rosen suggested he might relay his conversations with Trump if he had permission to do so. A Justice Department spokesperson had no immediate comment on what instructions the agency gave to Rosen, who was deputy attorney general in the last two years of the Trump administration and became acting head of the department when Attorney General Bill Barr resigned on Dec. 24, 2020.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) pressed Rosen on whether Black protesters would’ve been treated similarly by law enforcement as the predominantly white crowd that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6
“I think our preparation and our responses would’ve been the same,” Rosen said.
“I’m going to have to disagree with you,” declared Bush, who was a Black Lives Matter organizer before winning election to the House last year. “The contrast is stark.”
The lawmakers who led off questioning for Republicans at the hearing seemed intent on minimizing the gravity of the events at the Capitol. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) argued that the shooting of protester Ashli Babbitt as she sought to breach a lobby outside the House chamber was unwarranted.
“Who executed Ashli Babbitt?” Gosar asked. “The truth is being censored and covered up. As a result, the DOJ is harassing peaceful patriots across the country.”
Gosar argued that the massive Justice Department effort to prosecute those who breached the Capitol and fought with police amounted to overkill aimed at persecuting “Trump voters.”
“The FBI is fishing through the homes of veterans and citizens with no criminal record and restricting the liberties of individuals that have never been accused of a crime,” Gosar said. “The government even enlisted Americans to turn in their own neighbors.”
Gosar also suggested that none of the protesters who entered the Capitol had a weapon. Prosecutors have claimed that firearms were brought into the Capitol, but they have not said that guns were actually seized in the building.
Video of the riot shows some who battled with police wore trademark Trump campaign Make America Great Again caps and waved huge pro-Trump flags. However, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) disputed press reports that those who sought to breach the Capitol were backers of Trump.
“I don’t know who did the poll to say they were Trump supporters,” Norman said.
Several Democrats tried to rebut the Republican stance by citing then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pointed rebuke of Trump in January for fueling the attack on the Capitol.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said Trump’s culpability for the assault was indisputable.
“He pointed them like a loaded pistol at the capitol. Now, we’re getting this outrageous Orwellian revisionist history,” Raskin said.
Despite the sharp criticism Miller took from Democrats, he did seem to break with Republicans seeking to minimize the events of Jan. 6. “I agree it was an act of terrorism,” he said.
Lara Seligman contributed to this report.
Dozens killed in Mideast conflict that recalls 2014 Gaza war
Palls of gray smoke rose in Gaza, as Israeli airstrikes struck apartment towers and blasted multiple Hamas security installations. In Israel, hundreds of rockets fired by Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other militants at times overwhelmed missile defenses and sent air-raid sirens and explosions echoing across Tel Aviv, Israel’s biggest metropolitan area, and other cities.
The death toll in Gaza rose to 53 Palestinians, including 14 children and three women, according to the Health Ministry. At least 320 have been wounded, including 86 children and 39 women. Seven have been killed on the Israeli side by rocket fire, including the first death of an Israeli soldier in this round of conflict. The other deaths have been civilians, including three women and two children, one of them a 6-year-old killed in a rocket strike on an apartment building in city of Sderot. Dozens in Israel have been wounded.
There was no sign that either side is willing to back down. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to expand the offensive, saying it “will take time.” Hamas has called for a full-scale intifada, or uprising. The last such uprising began in 2000 and lasted more than five years.
The latest eruption of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem, where heavy-handed police tactics during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers ignited protests and clashes with police. A focal point was the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a site sacred to Jews and Muslims.
Hamas, claiming to be defending Jerusalem, launched a barrage of rockets at the city late Monday, escalating the ground tensions into a new Israel-Hamas punching match.
Since then, militants have fired more 1,050 rockets from Gaza, according to the Israeli military, and Israel has conducted hundreds of strikes in the tiny territory where 2 million Palestinians have lived under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007. Two infantry brigades were sent to the area, indicating preparations for a possible ground invasion.
On Wednesday, Israel stepped up its targeting of Hamas’ military wing. The military and internal security agency said they carried out a “complex and first-of-its-kind operation” that killed the Hamas commander in charge of Gaza City, the highest-ranking Hamas military figure killed by Israel since 2014, and several other senior militants involved in rocket production.
Israel has struck 350 targets and killed at least 30 militants since Monday night, 14 of them on Wednesday, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.
In one of the fiercest attacks, Israeli fighter jets dropped two bombs on a 14-story building in Gaza City, collapsing it. The building, located on the busiest shopping street in the Roman neighborhood, housed businesses in addition to offices for Hamas’ Al-Aqsa satellite channel.
Airstrikes also brought down a 12-story office building that housed Hamas offices as well as other businesses, and heavily damaged a nine-story building with residential apartments, medical companies, a dental clinic and, Israel said, Hamas intelligence offices. In both cases, Israel fired warning shots, allowing people to flee.
Soon after, Hamas fired 100 rockets at the Israeli desert town of Beersheba in what it said was retaliation.
Samah Haboub, a mother of four in Gaza, said she was thrown across her bedroom in a “moment of horror” by an airstrike on an apartment tower next door. She and her children, ages 3 to 14, ran down the stairway of their apartment block along with other residents, many of them screaming and crying.
“There is almost no safe place in Gaza,” she said.
One strike hit a taxi in Gaza City, killing a man, woman and driver insider, and a second strike killed two men nearby on the street, witnesses who brought the bodies told The Associated Press at the hospital. Several other bystanders were wounded.
In the Israeli city of Lod, a 52-year-old Arab Israeli citizen and his 16-year-old daughter were killed when a rocket from Gaza hit the courtyard of their home. An Israeli soldier was killed in a strike by an anti-tank missile from Gaza.
The Jerusalem turmoil and the ensuing battle come at a time when the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process is virtually non-existent, fueling Palestinian frustration.
It has been seven years since the two sides held formal negotiations. Israel’s political scene pays little attention, and the peace process was hardly an issue in the country’s recent elections. Arab nations, including several that recently reached normalization deals with Israel, rarely push for any resolution.
The result has left the nearly 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem living in a limbo.
Now the recent fighting has unleashed protests in Arab communities in Israel.
“An intifada erupted in Lod, you have to bring in the army,” the central Israeli city’s mayor, Yair Revivo, said. Lod saw heavy clashes after thousands of mourners joined a funeral for an Arab man killed the previous night, the suspect a Jewish gunman.
With the deployment of border guards in Lod and the coastal city of Acre, Netanyahu warned that he was prepared to use “an iron fist if necessary,” and urged Arab Israeli leaders to bring calm.
Still unclear is how this new outburst of fighting will effect Netanyahu’s political future. He failed to form a government coalition after inconclusive parliamentary elections in March, and now his political rivals have three weeks to try to form one.
The longer the fighting drags on, the more it could hamper their attempts at a coalition. It could also boost Netanyahu if yet another election is held, since security is his strong suit with the public.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized power in Gaza from rival Palestinian forces. The conflicts ended after regional and international powers persuaded both sides to accept an informal truce.
Israel faced heavy criticism over the bombing of residential buildings in Gaza during the 2014 war, one of several tactics that are now the subject of an investigation by the International Criminal Court into possible war crimes. Israel is not a member of the court and has rejected the probe.
In a brief statement, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she had noted “with great concern” the escalation of violence and “the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute” that established the court.
Conricus, the military spokesman, said Israeli forces have strict rules of engagement, follow international laws on armed conflict and are trying to minimize civilian casualties.
But Israel has said it has no choice because Hamas fires rockets from residential areas. Hamas has also come under international criticism over its indiscriminate rocket fire at Israeli population centers.
Opinion | A GOP Civil War? Don’t Bet On It.
They shouldn’t be so sure.
First, beyond a few spats that make headlines, it’s getting harder to detect any serious division among rank-and-file Republicans. In Congress, and at the grassroots, the dominance of Donald Trump over the party is more or less total. The small handful who denounced the former president for his massive lies about the election and his seeding of an insurrectionist riot are now either silent, or have embraced a mealy-mouthed argument for “election integrity.” The same state officials who pushed back against Trump’s attempt to overturn November’s results have embraced a series of restrictive voting measures ostensibly designed to combat non-existent “fraud,” all aimed at hobbling voters inclined to vote for Democrats. Mitch McConnell, who denounced Trump’s behavior in high-minded tones in the aftermath of the riot, also—on the exact same day—voted to exonerate him of wrongdoing.
Second, and more significant, history is littered with times that critics on the left, and in the pundit class, were positive the Republican Party was setting itself up for defeat by embracing its extremes … only to watch the party comfortably surge into power. This time there are structural advantages as well: Given the Republican advantages in the House (through gerrymandering, and the statistically “wasted” votes in landslide Democratic districts), in the Senate, in state legislatures and in the Electoral College, a Trump-dominated Republican Party is a strong contender to take the White House next time around. And, contrarian as it may seem, the lockstep devotion to the former president may actually enhance, rather than lessen, its chances. What we’re seeing isn’t a civil war. It’s a purge, and there’s every reason to believe it will work.
This is not the conclusion you’ll reach if you follow much of the mainstream press. A New York Times story on Saturday about Trump’s hold on the GOP quoted former Rep. Barbara Comstock, former Sen. Jeff Flake, GOP consultant Sarah Longwell and Republican strategist Scott Reed, all warning of the political danger of a Trumpcentric party. These are estimable public figures, none of whom remotely speaks for the Republican base. For the past few weeks, much media attention was focused on Michael Wood, the 34-year-old veteran running for a Texas seat with a message that the Republican Party had to move away from Trump. He wound up finishing ninth, with 3 percent of the vote.
For a broader measure of just how one-sided the “civil war” is, you don’t need to stop at the behavior of House Republicans, who are poised to defenestrate Liz Cheney from her leadership post, and who overwhelmingly voted in January to block the certification of electors. A far better picture emerges when you consider the behavior at the grassroots. From one end of the country to the other, state and local Republicans have spoken with one voice.
In Oregon—once the home of moderate Republicans like Mark Hatfield and Robert Packwood—the state party declared that the January 6 pro-Trump insurrection was a “false flag” operation by antifa and Black Lives Matter supporters. In Arizona, where Sen. John McCain once stepped across the aisle to defend the patriotism of Barack Obama, the state party censured his widow, Flake and Gov. Doug Ducey for refusing to embrace the “stolen election” fantasies of Trump. More recently, the GOP-controlled state Senate turned 2.1 million votes from Maricopa County over to an “auditing” firm run by hardcore Trump supporters; the firm is now inspecting ballots for “bamboo fibers,” the better to prove that thousands of ballots somehow made their way from China into Arizona ballot boxes.
In state after state—Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Michigan, Washington—local Republican parties are rallying around the ex-president, and censuring those who dare to critique him. If there is any counterweight to this mass impulse, if there are signs of any activity on the other side of this “civil war,” it is happening at a level so low as to be invisible.
From a distance, this all looks somewhere between absurd and suicidal for the party: Pledging total allegiance to a divisive, 74-year-old one-term president who lost his reelection bid by 7 million votes, and lives in a bubble of people telling him he won. He could, and seemingly still can, remove critics from the political stage with the flick of a finger. Should that be seen as a political calamity for Republicans?
If you have a long enough memory, or a grasp of political history, you can point to a moment when the GOP was, indeed, slightly too extreme for American voters: Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater went down to a massive defeat in 1964, in part because the then-significant moderate-liberal wing of the party refused to support him.
But that may be the last time the Republicans truly regretted alienating their moderates. In 1980, Mary Crisp stepped down as co-chair of the Republican National Committee after the party abandoned its support for the Equal Rights Amendment, and put a more or less total abortion ban in its platform. To the pundit classes, her departure was seen an obvious sign that Ronald Reagan’s nomination would drive the then-significant core of moderate and even liberal Republicans away from the ticket. Spoiler alert: The party united behind Reagan and won 44 states. Crisp’s dramatic departure is now a footnote, at best.
For establishment Washington, it was a genuine shock to the system. When 1980 began, an A-list New Year’s gathering in Washington held an informal poll on who would win the presidential election that November. Not a single partygoer chose Reagan. If the collective wisdom of Washington could not imagine the election of a candidate who was twice been elected to lead the largest state in the union, it was beyond the pale in early 2016 to imagine a crude, bullying, recreational liar with the political knowledge of a hamster ascending to the highest office in the land. He would not survive the first in-depth investigative news probe; he would not survive the first primary; he would be turned back at the convention; he would go down to humiliating defeat in November.
And indeed, his ascent triggered what looked like a civil war within the party. Four of the previous five Republican presidential nominees refused to endorse him; a fifth of GOP senators did the same. But Trump won 88 percent of the Republican vote. And after four years of unhinged government, after credible evidence of obstruction of justice, after a pandemic death toll directly linked to presidential indifference and ignorance … Trump won 12 million more votes than he had four years earlier, with the support of 94 percent of Republican voters. That’s slightly better than Reagan did in his 1984 landslide reelection. A shift of 42,000 votes in three states would have thrown the contest into the House of Representatives, where the ludicrously anti-democratic one-state-one-vote rule would have put Trump back in the White House. (Further—had David Perdue won a quarter of one percent more of the vote in the Georgia Senate contest last November, he would have avoided a runoff and the Senate would now be under GOP control).
And despite Trump’s overt attempt to subvert the election, despite his feeding the flames that nearly led to a physical assault of the vice president and speaker of the House, the Republican Party has, after a few complaints and speed bumps, firmly rallied behind Trump’s argument that he was robbed of a second term. A remarkable 70 percent of self-identified Republicans say Biden is not the legitimate president. To prove their commitment to Trump, state legislators, governors and other officials enact laws based on that premise. Rather than holding up their end of a civil war, the objectors are being stripped of their jobs, or leaving the party entirely.
Looking ahead to 2024, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the structural advantages that benefit the Republican Party—in House districts, in the GOP tilt of the Senate and Electoral College—are only tilting further in its direction, buttressed by new laws and regulations passed to make Trump and his followers happy. If Trump really runs, and the 2024 election results have roughly the same profile as 2020’s, it is far more likely that Trump would emerge the victor, given new barriers to voting and the purging of nonpartisan voting officials.
Now throw in the human factors, and imagine how a Republican House and Senate could refuse to certify politically unpalatable state results, thus throwing the election into the House, where the one-state-one-vote rule makes a victory for the Republican candidate probable.
The pattern is striking: if you want to survive as a Republican official, you will support the former president; if you support the former president, you will support laws that reflect his conviction that the election was stolen; if you enact those rules, you are making it more possible that he will win a second term. The party is talking with one voice; the voice is Trump’s, and it’s one that plenty of Americans are still perfectly receptive to.
Yes, there are those within the party who will resist: Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, blue state governors like Larry Hogan, former GOP Chair Michael Steele, who has been effectively divorced from the party for years. As nominal Republicans, they will win a significant share of coverage in the New York Times, and on CNN and MSNBC. But the idea that they represent one side of a major split within the Republican Party is a fantasy.
As a body, that party has embraced notions about the political process that would have seemed the stuff of parody a decade ago. Donald Trump Jr. was right, in his speech to the crowd just before the Capitol insurrection: this is Trump’s Republican Party, and it’s perfectly united in that conviction. To pretend otherwise—and to pretend that there’s an argument about what it stands for, or some kind of damaging fracture still ahead—is an act of delusion.
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