Over the past four years, Republicans who have supported and enabled President Donald Trump have been more interested in retaining their hold on power than standing up for any principles or coherent policies. With no one to stop him, Trump, the only US president who has been impeached twice, has completely remade the GOP in his own disgraceful and pathetic image.
After Trump supporters broke into the US Capitol last week in a desperate attempt to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, 10 House Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, broke ranks Wednesday to impeach Trump.
Some Republicans have shown a willingness to press the reset button in attempt to remove the stain of Trump from their party, but there is no going back. For every Liz Cheney, there are more than a dozen elected GOP officials who are still committed to Trump.
Despite the fact that Republicans lost control of the House, Senate and White House during Trump’s term, all signs suggest he will continue to control the party as its de facto leader, weighing down the more traditional wing of the party from wresting back control.
Why are so many Republicans still sticking with Trump?
1. Physical fear. Longtime GOP strategist and Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson told MSNBC’s Joy Reid that two Republican Congress members who voted against impeachment did so not out of principle, nor fealty to Trump — they voted against impeachment because they feared for their lives. “If I vote against (Trump), I will never know when they will kill my wife, or my kids or me,” said Wilson, quoting one House Republican. “They are terrified of the mob,” he added.
As a result, many GOP House members are far more worried about losing their seats to a fellow Republican in a primary challenge than they are to losing to a Democrat in a general election. Moderate Republicans who are concerned about being outflanked by a challenger on the right may therefore fall in line with more outspoken and extreme Congress members to save their own skin.
This presents an interesting conundrum for McConnell — how will he get a popular but toxic ex-President out of national politics and away from the Republican Party? One might expect McConnell to use the guise of an impeachment trial to force Trump out of politics and remove the threat of a 2024 presidential run. But we’re not holding our breath.
What is “The Party of Trump” in a post-Trump world? The answer is quite simple: It’s a party of dysfunction, at odds with itself. The GOP is now the party about nothing.