USA: Golden statue of Trump greets attendees at CPAC conference in Orlando
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By Bob Gaydos
It's not easy being a Republican these days. First, there's the question, "What is a Republican?" Second, there's the problem with numbers. They don't add up. Third ... for now, go back to Number One: What is a Republican?
The future of the party has been the subject of debate ever since its candidate, Donald Trump, was soundly defeated by Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Not only did Trump, an incumbent, lose, but Democrats also took control of the Senate, giving them control of Congress as well, since they retook the House in the midterm elections of Trump's four years in office.
This is not exactly "winning," which is what Trump's lap dog Lindsey Graham says is what he's all about. Yet Graham still supports Trump as the leader of the GOP. And apparently, according to several surveys, so do a lot of other Republicans.
Which is good news for Democrats.
It's the numbers. According to the Pew Research Center, 29 percent of registered voters identified as Republicans in 2020, while 33 percent identified as Democrats and 34 percent as independent. Since Trump's loss, his incitement of the riot at The Capitol and the continuing lie that the election was stolen from him, thousands of Republicans have left the party. Even without knowing the exact number of defections, clearly there are fewer Republicans today than just last year.
But one survey showed 73 percent of Republicans still felt it was important to remain loyal to Trump, while about 70 percent would at least consider joining another party if he started one. Those numbers sound impressive, but they are 73 or 70 percent of a registered voter base that was only 29 percent of the total electorate. A big chunk of a relatively small chunk.
However, if 30 percent of Republicans can't abide Trump, his support among registered Republicans then drops to around 20 percent of the electorate. Since many independents also don't like Trump and more tend to identify with Democrats than Republicans anyway, it's hard to see where Republicans plan to find the votes.
One answer is, they don't. They plan to prevent as many Democrats (especially minorities) from voting as possible. Voter suppression proposals have been presented in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country. But they will be challenged in court.
Another answer is, many Republicans are consumed by the delusion that Trump is their messiah and is destined to lead them to victory and beyond. Case closed. This weird factor grew exponentially with the recent Conservative Political Action Conference convention at which a gold statue of Trump was presented for adulation. Which goes back to the question what is a Republican? Or a conservative for that matter.
If Trump were to start a new party (unlikely if Republicans are willing to just give him theirs which is already organized and well-funded), what would it stand for? More of the same? Racism, bigotry, corruption, deceit and incompetence? Losing? Lying? White supremacy? Loyalty to the leader above all else?
Is that what a Trump Republican is today? Again, the numbers say it's a losing hand. Yet Trump loyalists within the party say it would be foolhardy for those party members who reject Trump to either try to assume control of the party or start a new one based on traditional conservative Republican views because the party's base wouldn't go for it. The grassroots Republicans would reject such an attempt, it is said, because that's not who they are.
Precisely. The "grassroots" Republicans Trump appeals to are all-in on the racism, bigotry, bullying, etc. Forget traditional conservative principles. The GOP Big Tent today is flooded with angry white men and women who go to church and ignore what is preached. They believe what they're told and have no use for compromise or, indeed, for government. And beware if you oppose them. The old line Republicans who let them in to boost their numbers are scared to death of this base. Literally. Republicans who criticized Trump were actually advised not to attend CPAC for their own safety. But the Golden Trump was there.
Forget principles and numbers. The only hope I see for Republicans who want to preserve traditional party values and restore its place as a legitimate partner in governing America is to hope that those Democratic prosecutors looking into Trump's affairs in New York, Georgia and who knows where else are really good at their jobs. Since they weren't appointed by Trump, odds are they are. Maybe they'll take Trump out of the picture. Then all the old-school Republicans will have to do is get rid of all the Trump wannabes in their party. That's problem number three. It may be a bridge too far.
Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.