How Bennett’s Downfall Foreshadowed the Rise of Trump

Roll Call takes an in-depth look at the career of the late Sen. Bob Bennett, whose re-election defeat in 2010 served as a preview of the current civil war within the Republican Party.

Reports Stephanie Akin:

The death of the much-admired former Utah Sen. Robert F. Bennett just hours after Donald Trump effectively secured his party’s presidential nomination reminded official Washington of the first visible stirrings of the unrest that Trump has now ridden to the top of his party.


Before there was Trump’s “beautiful wall,” or oath to make America great again, there was this: Bennett, a party stalwart with a reputation for pragmatism and deftness at the pork-barrel politics that made compromise possible, brought to tears at a 2010 nominating convention as he realized that his own party was ousting him after 18 years in the Senate.


Bennett, who had been fighting cancer and had been weakened by a stroke, died on May 4. But it was six years ago that he became the first victim of the first strike of what has lately become a full-blown “civil war inside of the Republican Party,” said Rick Wilson, a Republican political strategist and media consultant.


“That was the rumblings, the preview of the beginning of the first act,” Wilson said. “Now we’re in the second, and it’s getting much louder, much uglier, deciding whether we’re going to be a conservative party or a nationalist, populist party in the image of Donald Trump. And it’s a very hairy moment for conservative Republicans.”