Julie McDonald Commentary: What Happened to the Grand Old Party? It’s Gone


Last week’s vote to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from a top leadership position in the Republican Party left me wondering what happened to the party I once endorsed, the party of high moral values, the party that believed in truth and protecting the U.S. Constitution.

Today, it’s a party where our 2008 presidential nominee, a decorated war veteran tortured while a prisoner of war in Vietnam, is mocked and ridiculed.

A party where Sen. Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and our 2012 presidential nominee, is booed by Utah Republicans and almost censured.

Today, it’s a party that ignores the truth — the fact that President Donald Trump lost his re-election bid by more than 7 million votes in the popular count and 10,000 votes in the closest state.

As Cheney said a week ago, the night before her ouster as the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, “Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They hear his words but not the truth.”

“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” the conservative Wyoming Republican continued on the House floor. “I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the president for his role in inciting a mob of supporters who broke into the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, a violent incursion that left five people dead and 140 injured.

“Today, we face a threat America has never seen before,” Cheney continued. “A former president who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.”

And the Republican Party has joined him — hook, line and sinker.

“I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law,” Cheney said. “The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process. Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.”

Cheney has shown integrity and leadership, a heartfelt desire to rescue her political party from the dregs of delusion where Trump has led it. If she had served in Congress during the 1950s, she would have spoken against the fanatical anti-communist witch hunt waged by U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican.

Friends tell me hundreds of people signed affidavits alleging fraud. But allegations of widespread voter fraud have no basis in fact. Trump didn’t lose by hundreds of votes. He lost by thousands of votes in the closest state, millions of votes nationwide. He lost because people who picked a third-party candidate or wrote in a name in 2016 couldn’t risk seeing him in the White House another four years, given the division he had fostered during his first term.

Today, anyone who doesn’t believe Trump’s big lie can no longer hold a leadership role in the Republican Party. Instead, the party defends a delusional sore loser, terrified to cross the man who emboldened white supremacists, anti-Semites and hate groups throughout this nation. The man whose false rhetoric over claims of a “stolen election” sparked a riot at the Capitol, where extremist men and women waving Confederate flags and wearing Camp Auschwitz T-shirts stormed the Capitol with the sole purpose of interrupting the constitutional certification of the Electoral College vote, determined to keep a usurper in the White House despite the fact that he lost the election.

Today, the Republican Party embraces haters. Just look at the nasty Facebook comments under Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s posts about legislation benefiting Southwest Washington. For a decade, the Battle Ground Republican has represented our 3rd District well. She has supported veterans, jobseekers, renters, landlords, affordable prescription drugs and newborn screening. She endorsed tax cuts for workers and employers, clean and affordable power, Native American and commercial fishing rights. She has hosted job fairs and Veterans History Project events to record the stories of military members who fought to protect our freedoms. She has fought tolls on Columbia River bridges. Although I don’t always agree with her, she has been an outstanding representative.

But then she failed to believe the lie that the election was stolen. She blamed Trump’s hateful rhetoric for sparking the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection — which is defined as “a violent uprising against an authority or government.” Anyone who has watched the videos knows the riot grew violent. Just ask the Capitol police officers battered that day. Rioters chanted “hang Mike Pence,” a clear threat to kill our nation’s vice president.

One rioter, Anthony Antonio, a 27-year-old Delaware native who faces five federal criminal charges, claimed that continued airing of false allegations about mass election fraud and encouragement to “stop the steal” prompted him to participate in the siege on the Capitol. He said that for a while he elevated the president above God.

I believe a lot of people have done the same. They accept the former president’s allegation that the election was stolen without seeing proof. Faith — belief without proof — should be reserved for Jesus Christ, not Donald Trump.

Luke 6:45 states, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

I’ve been guilty of saying hurtful words, but I try not to do so. Yet President Trump frequently spewed hateful rhetoric from his bully pulpit, demonizing and ridiculing anyone who disagreed with him. He continues to do so today.

His supporters discounted his nasty tweets because they liked his policies. Cheney endorsed those same policies, but they don’t like her tweets. She spoke the truth — saying the election was not stolen — so she needed to go.

Hypocrisy reigns.

Instead of seeing damage clearly done to the Republican Party by its embrace of Trump, the formerly “Grand Old Party” has doubled down, ousted Cheney, and condemned those who fail to swallow the big lie rather than those who seek to undermine our democracy by falsely calling the election rigged.

What happened to my Republican Party? As fellow columnist Brian Mittge reminded me, I was a Republican long before Donald Trump ever was.

Not anymore. The party of hate, the party of Trump, the party of deranged lies, has no place in my life.

In fact, every Republican candidate seeking public office should be asked to go on the record and answer this question: “Was the 2020 presidential election stolen?”

If yes, show me the proof.

If no, why don’t you have the guts to stand up and say so?

Any candidate who believes Trump’s delusional lie — that the election was stolen — has no grounding in reality and therefore no business holding public office or running our government.

I admire Cheney and Herrera Beutler, who voted to keep Cheney in her leadership role, and all the strong women and men who refuse to buy into Trump’s fantasy, knowing they’ll face a backlash from the former president and his sycophants. I will continue to endorse and campaign for conservative candidates of principle, people like Cheney and Herrera Beutler who live in reality and strive to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

The party of hate under Donald Trump can and will do great damage. If it destroys the Republican Party, so be it. Perhaps from its ashes we can rebuild a party that stands for conservative values and protection of our democracy and the U.S. Constitution.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.