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It is Trump's Republican Party now — and woe to any who object

Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Mark Sanford blew up his marriage and became a national laughingstock when he sneaked off his job as South Carolina governor for a tryst with his Argentine lover.

After he forsook his presidential ambitions and spent time in political purgatory, voters forgave Sanford's trespass and, in 2013, elected him their representative in Congress.

But on Tuesday, Sanford was tossed from office by his Republican constituents for committing a far graver sin: criticizing President Donald Trump.

With his bulldozing personality, Trump has transformed the GOP from a party of anti-communist cold warriors to one that coos over North Korea's communist dictator, from a champion of free trade to an instigator of trade wars.

And woe to those within the party who challenge his direction or judgment.

"If you're a Republican member of Congress who wants to speak out against Trump, you have a couple of choices," said David Wasserman, who handicaps House races nationwide for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Retire or lose your next primary."

The Trump takeover, which once seemed shaky after his favored candidates in a 2017 Alabama Senate race faltered and fell, now seems complete.

A candidate elected over the strong protestations of the Republican Party establishment, who failed to win the popular vote and has consistently earned the lowest approval ratings of any president at this stage in his term, has emerged, at least so far as the GOP is concerned, as its hugely popular kingmaker supreme.

Part of the change may reflect passage of a sweeping tax cut, a page from Republican gospel, which reassured party voters that Trump could deliver on some of their priorities.

Part may also stem from Trump's success in convincing the faithful he is under siege by what he describes as a politically motivated witch hunt into Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign.

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