Ahead of a special election on Saturday to replace a Texas congressman who died after contracting Covid-19, former president George W Bush said the ascendancy of supporters of Donald Trump suggest Republicans “want to be extinct”.
The special election is in the sixth district, whose Republican representative, Ron Wright, died in February. Twenty-three candidates will compete: all but one of the 11 Republicans are tied to the apron strings of Trump, the former president who still dominates the party.
One candidate, the former wrestler Dan Rodimer, promises to “make America Texas again” and has said “commies in DC are ruining America”.
Trump has endorsed another – Susan Wright, the former congressman’s widow who the former president said on Saturday “will be strong on the border, crime, pro-life, our brave military and vets, and will always protect your second amendment”.
The one Republican not expressing fealty to Trump, former marine Michael Wood, told CNN he was “afraid for the future of the country”, given his party’s adherence to Trump’s lie that the election was stolen, its reluctance to condemn those who rioted at the Capitol on 6 January in support of that lie, and the prevalence of conspiracy theories such as QAnon.
“I felt like I had to stand up,” Wood said. “Somebody needed to stand up and say this isn’t what the Republican party should be.”
Nonetheless, it is. In a CNN poll released on Friday, 70% of Republicans said Biden did not legitimately win enough votes to be named president. Biden won more than 7m more votes than Trump and took the electoral college 306-232, the same score by which Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Bush is promoting a new book, a collection of portraits and stories of immigrants. In an interview released on Friday by the Dispatch, an anti-Trump conservative podcast, he was asked about recent moves by pro-Trump extremists to form a congressional caucus promoting “Anglo-Saxon traditions”.
“To me that basically says that we want to be extinct,” he said.
If such trends continued, Bush said, in three to five years “there’s not going to be a party. I mean I read about that and I’m saying to myself, ‘Wow, these people need to read my book.’ And I mean, it’s like saying when I was running for governor of Texas, you’ll never get any Latino votes because you’re Republican. And I said you watch. And I worked hard.
“And the key thing was to let them know that I could hear their voice. I mean, democracy is great in that sense. And the idea of kind of saying you can only be Republican ‘if’, then the ultimate extension of that is it ends up being a one-person party.”
Asked if he agreed with “more than 50%” of Republicans who think the election was stolen, Bush said: “No. I guess I’m one of the other 50%.
“By the way, I’m still a Republican, proud to be Republican. I think Republicans will have a second chance to govern, because I believe that the Biden administration is a uniting factor, and particularly on the fiscal side of things. So, you know, we’ll see. But I know this – that if the Republican party stands for exclusivity, you know, used to be country clubs, now evidently it’s white Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, then it’s not going to win anything.”
Wood, the anti-Trump Texas Republican, said he voted for Trump in 2020. But he also said he thought “the party is going to get to where I am eventually. I want that to happen without having to lose and lose and lose. Political parties sometimes only get the message they need to try something different after a string of losses. I think we should do that now as opposed to doing it after we lose in the midterms or lose another presidential election.”
The Texas sixth district has trended towards Democrats in recent elections but remains unlikely to flip.
Earlier this week, Trump told Fox Business he was “100% thinking about running” in 2024.
Rodimer, the former wrestler who is among the top money raisers in the field in Texas, told CNN: “President Trump is still the leader of the Republican party. I don’t think he’s going to go anywhere, ever. I hope he doesn’t. If he runs again, I’ll be fired up, I’ll be excited.”