The debate about former, disgraced President Donald Trump’s influence on the direction of the Republican Party tends to be watched now based on isolated Republican primaries. But the real question isn’t whether he is influencing their direction, but whether they have any direction at all in his absence.
Just think about the great challenges facing America today. A continuing pandemic, an economic recovery, a climate crisis that we feel and see on the news when we walk out the door, women forced to give up their careers by the millions to care for children or aging parents. Can anybody possibly name what the Republican proposals are to address any of these? You can’t, because there are none.
This is a result of a party that gave into becoming a cult of personality around Trump, but no longer has its cult leader.
Instead there is just a vague impulse to wage culture wars, regardless of the cost. A pandemic that could have been crushed through vaccination remains raging in predominantly Republican areas, affecting all of America as a result, because Republicans believe that refusing to acknowledge it, opposing all safety measures, and undermining vaccine confidence represents some imposter version of Trump.
House Republicans including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and conference chair Elise Stefanik continue to fan the flames of the Big Lie and the violent insurrectionist movement that wages a terrorist attack on the Capitol. Indeed, Stefanik got her job because she was a backer of the Big Lie and the woman she replaced, Rep. Liz Cheney, did not.
These have been the two core planks of the Republican platform, both completely divorced from factual reality and directly opposed to America’s interests: to oppose any and all efforts to stop the coronavirus or bring the economy back, and to inflame their base against American democracy by telling lies about the 2020 election, in part to justify egregious, racist, voter suppression efforts in Republican states across the country.
But Trump, who convinced so many that he was fighting for them on the basis of rhetoric and personality rather than his policies that predominately showered wealthy donors with benefits at the expense of working people, is largely gone. He has no power, not even a Twitter account, he’s more like a QAnon shadowy presence than the day-to-day influence on national discourse he was a year ago.
Above all, the primary problem facing the Republican Party is the same one they faced in 2018 — not an inspiring comparison for them — that Trump supporters respect and turn out for Trump, and they can see straight through his subservient, phony lackeys. Moderate and Democratic voters on the other hand, have seen Joe Biden making their lives better, and will be willing to support him and turn out against Trump lackeys.
Trump’s influence on the Republican Party is clear: He annihilated it in any principled, dignified way. And now with him gone they are left with a shell of a party, with not even Trump inside.
Jesse Lee is vice president of communications at the CAP Action Fund. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.