Will this year’s mid-term election finally break the grip the former guy has had on both the Republican Party and the media? Somehow I doubt it, but time will tell, and for the record I certainly hope so. Jamelle Bouie, writing for the New York Times has a few thoughts on the topic that I found interesting and share-worthy …
Republican Elites Might Be Done With Trump
12 November 2022
After the results of Tuesday’s election, where Trump-inspired and Trump-backed candidates went down to defeat across the country, Republican elites are desperate to make Ron DeSantis happen. It makes sense. This right-wing, pugilistic governor of Florida won a smashing victory in his race for a second term, albeit against a lackluster opponent — the former governor and perennial candidate Charlie Crist — and a moribund, uninspired Florida Democratic Party. But a 20-point margin is still a 20-point margin, even if you run virtually unopposed.
DeSantis, for his part, has national ambitions. He wants to sell himself to voters as the nation’s foremost defender of freedom (terms and conditions apply). He wants to lead the Republican Party back to the White House. And many of the most influential conservatives are eager to hand him the reins. But first, they have to clear the field.
Which is why the morning after Election Day saw a full-scale assault on Donald Trump’s position as leader of the Republican Party. The Wall Street Journal, for example, ran an editorial blasting him as “the Republican Party’s biggest loser” and urging Republicans to move on from the former president.
“Trump is a bust for Republicans,” wrote Rich Lowry, editor in chief of National Review, for Politico magazine. “He picked the candidates who lost. He helped make himself an issue. He changed what should have been a pure referendum on Joe Biden into what was more of a choice between Biden and a Trumpified Republican Party that couldn’t make itself palatable enough to suburbanites and independents.”
Even Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, took a (veiled) shot. “Conservatives are elected when we deliver,” he said on Twitter. “Not when we just rail on social media.”
There is a good case to make that all of this will work. The chief problem for Republican elites in 2016 was that they could not coordinate around a single candidate for president. In the absence of a figure who could unite the entire party establishment, Trump steamrollered through the competition, even if he never claimed a majority of Republican primary voters.
A unified party establishment is a powerful thing, and there’s real reason to think that Republican elites could muscle Trump out of his position if they committed to the aggressive, scorched-earth tactics it would take.
But there’s an issue. The idea that Republican elites could simply swap Trump for another candidate without incurring any serious damage rests on two assumptions: First, that Trump’s supporters are more committed to the Republican Party than they are to him, and second, that Trump himself will give up the fight if he isn’t able to win the party’s nomination.
I think these assumptions show a fundamental misunderstanding of the world Republican elites brought into being when they finally bent the knee to Trump in the summer and fall of 2016. Trump isn’t simply a popular (with Republicans) politician with an unusually enthusiastic group of supporters. No, he leads a cult of personality, in which he is an almost messianic figure, practically sent by God himself to purge the United States of liberals (and other assorted enemies) and restore the nation to greatness. He is practically worshiped by a large and politically influential group of Americans, who describe him as “anointed.”
It is one thing for Republican elites to try to break a political fandom. It is another thing entirely to try to break the influence of a man whose strongest, most devoted supporters were willing to sack the Capitol or sacrifice their lives in an attack on an F.B.I. office. Some Trump supporters will leave the fold for an alternative like DeSantis, but there will be a hard-core group who came to the Republican Party for Trump, and won’t settle for another candidate.
This gets to the second assumption: the idea that Trump would go quietly if he lost the nomination to DeSantis or another rival. Donald Trump might have been a Republican president, but he isn’t really a Republican. What I mean is that he shows no particular commitment to the fortunes of the party as an institution. His relationship to the Republican Party is purely instrumental. He also cannot admit defeat, as you may have noticed.
There is a real chance that Trump, if he loses the nomination, decides to run for president anyway. And if he pulls any fraction of his supporters away from the Republican Party, he would play the spoiler, no matter who the party tried to elevate against him. Republican elites might be done with Trump, but Trump is not done with the Republican Party.