What Will the Post-Trump Republican Party Look Like?
With the last move he had at his disposal now gone, it will be as concerning as it is interesting to see what happens next.
In the days and now weeks that have passed since the election, the behavior of the Trump administration in response to their loss was not at all surprising, but surreal nonetheless. If nothing else, it has served as a reminder of how fragile what’s left of our “democracy” really is, and how easily it can be bent almost to the breaking point by one individual who makes the conscious decision to exploit every single fundamental weakness they can find within it. With Michigan certifying the election results for Joe Biden’s victory, and taking away what was essentially the very last hope that the President had in order to maintain his power and overturn the results, CNN has reported that Donald Trump’s administration has officially reached out to Joe Biden, and signaled they are ready to begin the transition process.
This might be the end of Donald Trump’s time as President, but it feels safe to say that his influence has likely changed the dynamics of the Republican party for the foreseeable future. In the Post-Trump era, it will be as concerning as it is interesting to see what emerges from the GOP in the aftermath of the past four years.
While his soft coup attempts proved unsuccessful, and were — in all likelihood — a way to get money from his base one more time in order to pay off campaign debts, the damage has still been done. While Donald Trump and his legal team might not have taken these frivolous accusations of fraud or the lawsuits that irritated even conservative judges seriously, his base certainly did. A base who now thinks that Donald Trump had this election stolen from him, and are even more angry than they were when he first rose to power. Meanwhile, there is a whole elite class of Republican lawmakers who have had enough of the President and his antics, and are anxiously awaiting the day that Donald Trump is no longer a factor in their political calculations. The thing is, the very actions they enabled Trump to take in undermining the legitimacy of this election have probably ensured those days are a long way off.
It seems safe to suggest that the Republican party is heading for a scenario in which they may come to regret what they have created. At least, maybe they will when Trump inspired candidates swoop in in a Tea Party fashion to primary each and every Republican politician who they deemed was not sufficiently loyal to his power or agenda. They might come to regret it when the base they allowed to fester under Donald Trump flocks to his new Trump TV network full of sycophants, who probably won’t hesitate to identify those “Republican in name only” lawmakers that weren’t aligned with him enough, and cost Donald Trump his election.
Regardless of how it ultimately unfolds in the months and years to come, the post-Trump Republican party will be divided. Divided, I would argue, probably along class lines. The rich Republican donors who held their nose and tolerated Trump so they could get those tax cuts certainly understood the appeal, but how much longer will they tolerate his influence before they determine he is more of a liability than an asset? For the wealthy Republican donor, there probably isn’t the same level of attachment to Trump that a working class or poor Republican might have felt. Someone who would have found his rhetoric appealing, whether it be his vows to protect their jobs and their healthcare, or the not-so-subtle racist dog whistles the wealthy would probably prefer remained a little quieter.
The thing is, obviously, while it might be “divided” there are a lot more working class Trump supporting Republicans, riled up and angry about not only the outcome of this election they believe was stolen, but the uncertainty about their livelihoods and futures as well. An uncertainty that — whether liberals want to admit it or not — is unlikely to change enough for the better under a Biden administration.
Now, with Trump stepping aside — at least for the next few years — the question remains to be seen how Trump’s base is going to be approached by Republican lawmakers. Will they do their best to calm the storm they actively helped to create, or continue to stoke the anger? Naturally, the answer will depend on whether they make the calculation that Donald Trump has damaged — or improved — their brand.
After all, everything in Washington is about power.