If President Trump decides to take another run for the office in 2024, and makes his announcement on Jan. 20, Republicans in Congress will have an interesting choice to make.
The choice is whether they attend Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, or Trump’s campaign rally. Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who was no stranger to partisan battles during his years in Congress, knows what he would do – assuming that no earthshaking evidence surfaces about voter fraud.
“I’d attend the inauguration,” he said. “I have been, and remain, a strong Trump supporter. But I think the responsibility of every sitting member of Congress is to attend the inauguration celebration of a new presidency, whomever that president may be.”
And there is no doubt that Biden will be president on Jan. 20. But Craig says he’s not comfortable about this year’s elections. “There are a number of investigations going forward, based on what appears to be substantial allegations of fraud.”
Allegations are there, for sure, but so far there is no proof. Judges have dismissed a multitude of cases brought up by Trump and states have certified Biden as the winner. But Craig thinks Congress should not be finished with the issue, starting with a vote-by-mail system that seems to heavily favor Democrats.
“If I were on the judiciary committee of the Senate, I would hold the most extensive investigation that has ever been heard. I’d want to go through how the election was handled, the software that was used and the computer companies that managed it,” Craig said. “If allegations are anywhere near right, and we actually had the manipulation on a massive scale, then we have a major problem. We’ve always had fraud in election – Pennsylvania and Michigan were notorious because of the labor unions – but those were spotted. Those were not nationwide in their scope.”
Republicans are under fire for standing with Trump and refusing to even recognize Biden as the president-elect. Craig says some of his GOP friends are telling him that the president should move on.
“Wait a minute. Remember that when Donald Trump took office, Democrats said the Russians elected him and they kept it up for months and months. So why not do it? And if there’s a reason to do it, then dammit, stay with it … drag it out a bit. Shame on us if we are going to turn our backs on this, when (Democrats) spent four years beating the ‘H’ out of Donald Trump,” Craig says.
“What he is doing is legitimate. He has the constitutional right as a candidate to test the process to make sure there was no fraud. One thing that must be sacred is the credibility and legitimacy of our election process,” says Craig. “I truly believe if the Democratic Party had thought Hillary Clinton would lose, Trump never would have won. They were thinking that this silly character out of New York City wouldn’t be elected by the American people. What they didn’t realize is he was speaking to the American people in the way that has never been seen.”
And Trump, apparently, is not going to give it up. If he runs in 2024, with strong backing from his party, he’ll keep his grip on the GOP for the next four years – and potentially the next eight years after that. Craig hopes Republicans will turn the page on the Trump era at some point in the next four years.
“I would hope we’d have someone as articulate and strong in the policies as Donald Trump, but I’m not sure if any of us wants to go through the personal style of Donald Trump again,” Craig says. “He has moved the party in the right direction. He has brought in minorities and working-class people who have never voted Republican before, and it’s tremendously important that we sustain that base and build on it if we are to be the majority party in the country.”
Craig makes solid points about base building. The question is whether Republicans decide to move forward without Trump, or dwell on the past with him.
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org