Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) blasted members of his own party this week for being afraid to cross President Donald Trump. "We might poke the bear!" said Corker, who is retiring at the end of his term. "My gosh, if the President gets upset with us we might not be in the majority," he said referring to sentiments he often hears from colleagues.
Corker's remarks illustrate the fear that many lawmakers have -- Cross Trump and you're screwed.
The primary election defeat by veteran conservative Republican Rep. Mark Sanford in South Carolina illustrates, graphically, that those fears are well founded.
This Washington Post story is right on the money, observing "It's overly simplistic to say that South Carolina GOP congressman Mark Sanford lost his primary Tuesday because of Trump. But Trump was definitely a factor in making Sanford the second House Republican in 2018 to lose a primary. The president sent off this remarkably caustic tweet on Tuesday afternoon, as voters in South Carolina were getting off work and going to vote:
The Post pointed out that Trump's mention of Argentina was a reference to the affair Sanford was involved in nine years ago when he went missing and was discovered in Argentina with a woman who was not his wife. Where does Trump get off bringing up something like that! Of all people!
But, it wasn't just the Tweet that did Sanford in. Trump never forgave Sanford for disagreeing with him and speaking out against him. So, he supported state lawmaker Katie Arrington, who simply sucked up to Trump and played him like a fiddle.
And, Sanford wasn't Trump's only Republican victim. As the Post noted, Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) was forced into a runoff after abandoning Trump during the 2016 election.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who has decided not to seek reelection, felt the President's wrath because of his refusal to support Trump's nomination, repeatedly expressed skepticism over Trump's ties with Russia, and opposed components of the Republican agenda contradicting Trump's desire for easy wins.
What did Trump do? He threatened to spend $10 million out of his own picket to defeat Flake and dispatched emissaries from the White House to meet with possible opponents of the senator. What did Flake do? He announced in September he would retire, citing the direction of the GOP under Trump.
Dozens of Republican lawmakers have decided to retire or not seek re-election -- some because of strong primary opposition, some because they disagree fundamentally with what Trump is doing to the GOP and our country.
Lesson to be learned: oppose Trump and plan to pack your bags.