With former President Donald Trump out of the White House and unified Democratic control of Washington, Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown says the national Republican Party has reached an inflection point.
“This is a time for the Republican Party to look forward, to take stock of where we are and think carefully about what are the principles we believe in and that we rally around those conservatives and as Republicans and then to move forward,” said Brown during a Tuesday morning appearance on CNN.
On Monday, the Utah GOP issued a remarkable statement lauding both Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee for their votes during the second impeachment trial of Trump. Romney voted to convict the former commander in chief for inciting the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, while Lee voted to acquit. The statement warned about a political party focused on “unanimity of thought.”
It followed an effort by some Utah Republicans who began circulating a motion to censure the former GOP presidential nominee.
“This is a great opportunity for us to think about the fact that we have two senators who considered the same set of facts and came to different conclusions,” said Brown. “That’s the hallmark of a healthy political party.”
The Senate’s failure to convict Trump for the attempted insurrection runs counter to the majority of public opinion nationally but is in line with the mainstream of the GOP. A recent ABC News/Ipsos survey found 58% of Americans believe Trump should have been convicted, but only 14% of Republicans agree.
Thousands of voters across the nation have abandoned the Republican Party in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol. In Utah, the GOP rolls have dipped by 7,600 voters since January.
Brown says the challenge for the party is building an organization where fervent supporters of Trump and those who have drifted because of the former president can coexist.
“Rather than censuring people I may not agree with, I think this is the moment for us to collectively think about what it is that we stand for, what are those principles, then chart a pathway forward,” said Brown.
That could be easier said than done. Dozens of former Republicans, including former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, are discussing forming a center-right political party because they feel the current GOP is unwilling to stand up to Trump. Brown says splintering the GOP would be a mistake.
“One of the reasons we had so many successes last November is, rather than trying to create different factions, we came together and unified. That’s why the conservative principles we stand for are so important,” he said.