Analysis: Republican Party at a crossroad

Sam Stroud

Opinion Editor

Former President Donald Trump has been acquitted twice now as the Senate once again concluded the former President’s trial in a highly anti-climactic fashion. Despite the conclusion repeating itself, there were several major differences. 

The vote to find the President guilty was not strictly along party lines, as it had been for the last trial. With the exception of Mitt Romney, no Republican voted for Trump’s expulsion in his first trial. 

In this trial, seven Republican senators defected to the Democrat side. The list included the usual GOP moderates.  The somewhat surprising additions were Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Richard Burr of North Carolina. These are red state Republicans who rely on the Trump base to keep their offices. Burr more so than Cassidy. 

Their discontent with Trump is not isolated among Republicans. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a blistering Senate floor speech in which he undeniably slammed the President for his role in creating the environment to produce the riot on Jan. 6. 

The senators defections and McConnell’s apparent anger are just tangible manifestations of the fractures forming in the post-Trump presidency GOP. The Republican Party must decide how connected it wishes to be to Donald Trump. 

As I have discussed before, the Trump Presidency was marked with both satisfying victories and abhorrent failures. The successes were in large part due to the way Trump managed the Federal Government, slashing regulations and using his judicial power to appoint more originalist judges to the bench. 

The failures were Trump’s policy making abilities, personality, and overall lack of organization, whether it was his own White House staff or his Twitter feed. 

Trump also received 75 million votes to be re-elected president, the second most ever, second only to Joe Biden, who also happened to be running in this last election cycle. These sorts of numbers reveal two things, a lot of Americans support Trump, and a lot of Americans absolutely despise Trump. 

Trump has already promised that he will be back, so the GOP cannot simply ignore him and his base.

The Republican Party should have two objectives moving forward. Emphasizing the aspects of Trump agenda, which won him 75 million votes, and distance the party from the aspects of the Trump agenda that cost him the election. 

The immediate problem facing the GOP is the fact that they cannot win without Trump’s base.

Roughly about a third of the country has displayed a diehard level of support for the former President and simply will not show up to vote unless Trump, or somebody closely connected to him, is on the ballot. 

This could not have been made more clear in January, when Democrats swept the Georgia Senate elections, in which more than 18 GOP counties recorded less than 90%  turnout compared to the November general elections. In other words, Trump voters stayed home in January, costing the GOP Senate control.

However, even though Trump can be the GOP’s greatest vote generator, he also brings to the table his ability to drive up Democrat votes. It has been no secret that the GOP has taken substantial voter hits in American suburbs. While a decent percentage of that rests in the party’s slide in favor with suburban women, the numbers are down across the board for Republicans. 

This decline in favor has started and continued after the election of Donald Trump in 2016. The dramatic shifts reflect the GOP’s inability to retake the House, and their losses in states such as Georgia, where suburban counties have completely flipped against the GOP. 

It is not hard to see this collapse has been facilitated by Trump, who’s personality and rhetoric is extremely off putting. A simple example of this would be his first presidential debate against Joe Biden, in which he acted like a deranged lunatic for two and a half hours. 

After moments such as that incident, it is not hard to see why Trump’s approval ratings among moderates were not average to put it mildly. 

And this is the clear and obvious dilemma going forward for Republicans, they cannot win without Trump, and they cannot win with Trump. 

This situation makes the solution incredibly complicated, ask 10 different Republicans what the party should do to win future elections, you will get 10 different answers. 

The GOP is buckling under the tension that this problem is putting on the party, and the most critical point of tension is this, Republicans cannot engage in their favorite pass time, can kicking, on this issue. They have to address it now. 

The midterms are in about two years, and while that may seem like a decent time, it is not. This time next year, primaries will be deciding who Republicans put forward to wrestle control of the House of Representatives from the Democrat Party. 

It is obvious that Trump cannot be swept under the rug by the GOP. He will not allow that to happen, nor will his supporters. The party must find a way to include him for the future.

At the same time, the GOP must be able to blunt his influence in some capacity. At the very least, the Trump family cannot be allowed to supplant themselves within the Party. 

There has been some speculation that Lara Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, will be running for North Carolina’s Senate seat. This must not be supported by the GOP. The Trump name has simply become too toxic for middle America. In a purple state, which Trump narrowly won in 2020, running yet another Trump will further burn the suburban bridges Republicans clearly need to win a general election. 

The Republican Party must be able to distill the successes from the Trump presidency while eliminating the negative aspects of it. 

In some ways this means promoting more Trumpian politicians. Men and women who are serious about government deregulation and constitutionally convicted to confirm judges who are qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Fighting back against the left-wing media agenda and the various Democrat Party narratives. No longer promoting politicians who run as conservative and then sit on their hands during their time in office and allow the media to castigate them as horrible leaders and people. 

In other ways, it means a return to normalcy, promoting leaders who will not constantly attack every institution at every turn. Men and women who will not create daily word salads on Twitter, not cater to far right conspiracy loons, and treat other human beings with the barest standards of respect. 

Americans respect decency, and say what you want about the former President’s agenda and policies, at the end of the day, he was not a decent man. 

Thus, Republicans cannot elevate people who have similar characters to that of Trump. People like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who pander to far-right activists and clearly lack rational thinking ability, must be eliminated from the Party. The Republican Party is certainly a party with a big tent, but Republicans must be weary to make sure their tent does not become a circus for freaks and fools.

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