Once, it was Republicans themselves who administered the litmus test: Anyone who strayed from party orthodoxy on bedrock issues such as abortion, guns, school choice or, for some reason, relations with Israel could get labeled a RINO and risk a primary challenger from the right, or a sustained online smear campaign, or a kink in the flow of political donations.
This was before the Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection, when everything changed. Since that day, along with a handful of GOP elected officials and appointees who have stepped down or announced their retirement, hundreds of thousands of rank-and-file American voters have renounced the Republican Party by changing their affiliation.
Between Jan. 2 and Jan. 30, 2021, the number of registered Republicans in North Carolina dropped by 86,815. Forsyth County contributed 3,603 of them, certainly enough to sway a close countywide election these days. Guilford County lost 4,208 registered Republicans in that timeframe.
One can only presume that this defection is the direct result of the insurrection at the US Capitol, which was clearly incited by then-President Trump and some key allies.
And yet, the Guilford County GOP is doubling down as the party of Trump in advance of the next election cycle. A group email from Tina Forsberg, chairwoman of the 6th Congressional District Republicans, sent last week asserts as much. Some excerpts:
- “As I watch the damage being done to America by the fascist oligarchy (aka Biden administration), I weep (literally) for the wrecking ball that has been taken to America — the America I sought to preserve for my grandchildren and yours.”
- “[I]t is my assignment to think on things that are true, noble and admirable. My thoughts turn to President Trump and his ‘leadership in exile.’ While you may be tempted to only read provocative headlines (third parties and such), don’t be fooled by them…. America First, the Trump Agenda, is firmly at the helm in the RNC.”
- “Going forward…these next weeks, as the sham impeachment redux rolls out, you will be further challenged. Remember the words of Ben Franklin: We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall surely hang apart. Grieve the injustices we have suffered, but don’t get stuck there. Eventually, we must all come together to undo the significant damage we are witnessing and once again, as far as our politics goes, put America First.”
Believe it: The Guilford County GOP, and what remains of the party at large in North Carolina, is working to maintain the Big Lie — that Trump actually won the 2020 election — and is continuing to peddle insurrectionist rhetoric.
And while it’s true that we can’t paint all registered Republicans with the same brush, party leadership has spoken.
So, there’s a new bar to clear for Republicans now, and it’s being set by everyone else. All who run under the GOP banner from here on out must renounce the Big Lie, or risk feeding into sedition.