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The Republican Party Stands for the Republican Party

Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency on

So it looks like they finally found their red line.

Meaning the Republican Party. Tuesday, the GOP seems to have finally identified the barrier no Republican may be allowed to cross. Many of us had wondered where it was — or even if it was. We were genuinely, if morbidly, curious about what it would take to get the party to rebuke one of its own. Now, thanks to the election and, specifically, to the defeat of Madison Cawthorn, the soon-to-be former representative from North Carolina, we have our answer.

The red line is this: Don’t embarrass the GOP.

It’s OK if you embrace a white-supremacist theory like Rep. Elise Stefanik.

It’s no problem if you are an anti-Semite like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

It’s fine if you support insurrection like Sen. Josh Hawley.

 

Just don’t embarrass the party.

One might argue that any or all of the above ought to embarrass the party plenty. But that argument misreads the Zeitgeist.

Consider Cawthorn’s catalog of impolitic behavior: He twice brought loaded guns to the airport; he was shown on one video thrusting his naked genitals in another man’s face and on another partying in lingerie; he was accused of sexual harassment; he issued an apparent call for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. His controversies ranged from kink to outright sedition, touching several bases in between, yet none of it raised more than mild intraparty reproof. Not so a March podcast wherein he inexplicably claimed to have been invited to cocaine-fueled orgies by his colleagues.

That, said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was when Cawthorn “lost my trust.” It was also when Thom Tillis, a senator from his state, endorsed his primary challenger. It was when one member of the House Freedom Caucus told Politico anonymously about reactions “across the political spectrum . . . saying ‘What the hell . . . ?’” Even at that, Tuesday’s rejection by voters was narrow; he lost by just 1,300 votes out of 88,000 cast.

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