The Future of the Republican Party
The Republican Party is at a crossroads. While rhetoric from the “party of Lincoln” was once largely supportive of leaders like John McCain, Mitt Romney and other conservative voices, support for these individuals has now been dwarfed by the mammoth of support for the current President, Donald J. Trump. Conventional right-wing politics, that of supporting gun-rights and free-speech have largely been sabotaged with President Trump betraying many traditional conservative values. Yet nonetheless, President Trump received the second most votes in American electoral history, so support remains high. What is it that President Trump has tapped into? What is it that despite his betrayal of conventional conservative politics, his supporters would be willing to justify attempting a coup on the Capitol building? While there is a large variety of general ideas, his rise can largely be accredited to the rise in popularity of populism. Populism has bi-partisan passion, with left-wing candidate Bernie Sanders almost beating out Hillary Clinton in 2016. Many have caught onto this trend, including top academics such as Jeremiah Morelock, who coined President Trump’s brand of populism as “authoritarian populism” (Morelock). Trump’s base remains loyal, including top establishment Republicans who originally opposed him. Ted Cruz once said “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi the hell alone. It’s not easy to tick me off. I don’t get angry often, but you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that’ll do it every time” (Politico). This resistance was overwhelmed by Trump’s already large group of supporters, and Cruz’s allegiance has since been tested in the most extreme of settings, that being the protesting of the election results. Lindsey Graham is another who has dramatically shifted perspective, once saying to a voter “I don’t know who you are and I don’t know why you like this guy” (azcentral). This allegiance, similar to Cruz, was also tested at the certification of President-Elect Biden’s election, with Graham being forced to go on the record either opposing or in support of Trump. His words rang especially powerful given they were said just hours after Trump’s protesters stormed the Capitol, threatening the lives of the entire Congress. Despite being one of President Trump’s closest allies in Congress, he said “Trump and I, we've had a hell of a journey. I hate it to end this way. Oh my God, I hate it. From my point of view he's been a consequential president. But today, first thing you'll see. All I can say, is count me out, enough is enough” (CNN). This resistance was met with immediate disownment from Trump loyalists, who said “Lindsey Graham, you are a traitor to the country." (CNN). Given that this feeling of betrayal came only from Graham fulfilling his constitutional duty, many supporters of the President have sacrificed conventional, traditional conservative values such as liberty, freedom and the Constitution, all in the name of devotion to the President. That leaves an uncertain future for individuals such as Graham, Cruz and even President Trump, all of which hold the future of the Republican Party in their hands. What is that future?
To begin with, to be able to predict the constantly shifting political grounds is virtually impossible. So instead, to analyze the political future of the Republican Party, we will analyze both how many possible GOP candidates reacted to the President’s recent coup, and we will analyze the possibility of those individuals having support widespread enough to win a national election. To premise, names like Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney don’t appear to have much of a future, all of whom resisted Trump sometime in the past. While Cruz likely has the best shot at winning a Republican primary in 2024 from this group, his past oppositions to Trump, as well as his controversial protest of the 2020 election certification likely leaves him without enough support to get a primary win. He may even face struggles back home, depending on how Texas voters perceive his flip-flop. Though all three of these names had futures in the conventional GOP, their futures in the new, populist-oriented GOP remain unlikely.
The next group of individuals come from those who adamantly supported Trump since the beginning, through the Capitol attacks. These individuals, many of which share a name with President Trump, have not been on-record opposing the President, and likely faces the best shot at maintaining Trump’s base. The primary question for the future of Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, as well as political figures outside of any government branch such as Candace Owens, Tucker Carlson or Charlie Kirk is if they will be able to maintain the very loyal base to President Trump. Other political figures for example, Rob Desantis, Matt Gaetz and Madison Cawthorn have also maintained support for the President, making them possible inheritors to the Trump voter bloc fortune.
The final group of individuals are those who have been traditionally loyal to the President but have spoken out against him since the Capitol attack. Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and Pat Toomey all have resisted Trump either during or since the election certification and have since faced criticism from Trump loyalists. It is unlikely that any of the three could somehow maintain Trump’s base which will likely be needed in order to have a shot in 2024.
The future of the GOP is dependent on how loyal Trump’s base remains following the coup attempt, while it is possible that this will be enough to alarm even the most loyal of Trump voters, he has weathered political disaster more times than any candidate in history. Many thought the Hollywood Access Tapes would be his downfall, yet it is barely even discussed now in 2021. Trump’s unconventional rise to power leaves no precedent to follow, meaning it is very possible he escapes this coup with just a few bruises and scrapes. Invoking the 25th amendment is possible but unlikely. Impeachment on the other hand seems extremely possible, with emotions still high among the congresspeople who would be voting. While an impeachment vote by the House of Representatives would be largely symbolic (making Trump the only President to be impeached twice), an impeachment and removal from office vote in the Senate would be much more impactful, removing him from office and ruining any possibility of running in 2024. If this were to happen, Trump would likely endorse a member of his family and have his loyal base follow them, again depending on how loyal his base remains. If impeached or removed from office via the 25th, it will serve as a fitting ending for one of the most divisive, dangerous and corrupt administrations in U.S. history. Time will tell now how the Republican Party will adapt and if they cannot, they could face political ruin, never winning in their current form again.
Conway, M., & EVERETT, K. (2016, September 23). 9 times Ted Cruz insulted Donald Trump before endorsing him. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/ted-cruz-donald-trump-insults-endorse-228594
Montini, E. (2021, January 08). They called Trump a 'crazy lying bigot,' then deified him. Don't let them now play dumb. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/ej-montini/2021/01/08/trump-lying-bigot-republicans-like-cruz-graham-said/6592350002/
Morelock, J. (2018). Critical theory and authoritarian populism. London: University of Westminster Press.
Murphy, P., Wallace, G., & Foran, C. (2021, January 09). Trump supporters confront and scream at Sen. Lindsey Graham. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/08/politics/lindsey-graham-donald-trump-supporters-airport/index.html
Person. (2021, January 10). Republican senator calls on Trump to resign as president faces possible 2nd impeachment. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://abc7ny.com/politics/gop-sen-pat-toomey-calls-on-trump-to-resign-says-its-whats-best-for-country/9526333/