Jerry Kremer

Thoughts on saving the two-party system


Getting older has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is that having lived a long life, you’ve had an opportunity to see changes in the world around you, and you can pass your observations on to anyone willing to listen. One of the disadvantages is that even if you have some brilliant thoughts, members of the current generation think they know more than you and will reject your thinking out of hand.
For my entire life, I’ve believed that bipartisanship is the only way we can get things done. I can point to hundreds of changes in our federal and state laws that wouldn’t have happened without the willingness of the two parties to sit down and collaborate on many contentious issue. But with each passing day I become more disturbed about what has happened to the Republican Party, and by its inability to reform itself before it is eaten alive by people with the worst possible way of thinking.
The current party is best described as whatever former President Donald Trump thinks it is. He calls it the MAGA party, but it’s really the Trump party. He supports candidates who embrace his philosophy and rejects anyone who dares to challenge his thinking. Established politicians who were once the bedrock of the party are afraid to cross him on any issue for fear that his followers will turn on them.
I know there are a lot of good Republicans serving in the current Congress, but if you did a Washington name recognition test, the majority of party members would recognize only two prominent names. One is Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is known for outlandish and clueless statements. The other is Liz Chaney, who warned America about the perils of being a Trump supporter and has paid a price for it.
Until Trump came along, it had been a long time since the Republican Party had been saddled with anyone whose name alone was bad news for the party. I can think back to the days of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, followed by President Richard Nixon, and remember how they damaged the image of the party. But neither McCarthy nor Nixon was able to dominate the party’s thinking like Trump. He has established a stranglehold on the entire institution and has wiped out its great history, dating back to Abraham Lincoln.

Any fair-minded Republican has to acknowledge that the party has taken a series of political beatings that would never have happened under any other sitting or former president. In 2020, the party lost the House and the Senate, and it has a good chance of losing the Senate again due to the weakness of a group of Trump-supported candidates for the midterm election. In 2020, Trump brainwashed Georgia voters into avoiding voting, which helped elect two Democrats to the Senate. That race alone tipped the Senate balance in favor of the Democrats.
The vast majority of Republicans in this country are moderate to conservative thinkers who would fit nicely into the structure of any normal political organization. But today, a large number of those level-headed people believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen, even though Joe Biden beat Trump by 7 million votes. And many have become convinced that the electoral system is corrupt, and have been discouraged from taking part in the voting process.
Many Republicans, as well, believe that Trump is a victim of a partisan judicial system, and that’s the cause of his current legal problems. Some invoke the name of Hillary Clinton, claiming she had the same legal problems as Trump, but that is totally false. If Clinton did anything wrong, including violating the Federal Records Act, Trump had four years to punish her.
The conclusion is simple: Donald J. Trump is a blight on the Republican Party, and the party will not be revived again until he has disappeared from the political landscape. I am 100 percent in favor of a Republican Party that looks to its better angels. Those days are a long way off.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?