By Arab News
Despite former US President Donald Trump’s exit from the White House following his defeat by Democratic rival Joe Biden in last year’s election, many observers believe recent developments confirm that his ideology, which is known as “Trumpism,” will continue to exist within the Republican Party for years to come.
In order to understand the reasons for the dominance of Trump’s influence among the Republican Party’s base, especially among the working class and white Christian middle class, particularly in western and southern states, it is necessary to consider certain realities.
The working class and the white middle class have been negatively affected by the policies of globalization, free trade, immigration, and positive discrimination that successive US governments adopted in the decades preceding Trump’s presidency. He succeeded — like nobody else — in understanding the needs of this bloc and adopted policies consistent with its interests, foremost of which were restricting free trade, especially with China, and stopping immigration to the US, especially from Latin American countries.
These policies received broad support among the Republican Party base, which explains why more than 74 million people voted for Trump in the 2020 election. It is expected that they will continue to support Trumpism in the next vote. Thus, the former president will continue to have a strong influence on the party as long as that demographic remains loyal.
Many analysts believe that Trump is the only recent candidate to have succeeded in forming a huge conservative and populist voting bloc that combines sections of the capitalist elite, the working class and the middle class. This bloc is capable of achieving a majority in the next election due to its broad base and its desire to return to power in light of the rise in public debt to an unprecedented level, the economic crisis, and the spread of the coronavirus disease and its repercussions.
There are several mechanisms adopted by Trump in order to maintain his influence over the Republicans, including him attacking senior party leaders. His sweeping popularity among the base gives him the opportunity to attack any officials who disagree with him. This includes Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for not supporting Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud. Despite being a Trump supporter, DeWine was one of the first Republicans to acknowledge Biden’s election victory. Trump’s subsequent attack prompted some Republicans to try to remove DeWine from office.
Campaigns have also been launched against the 10 Republican representatives who in January voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment. The former president’s supporters have threatened to back rival candidates when it comes to deciding who will run for Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.
Trump also asserted his strong political sway among Republicans with the removal of conservative Liz Cheney, a staunch opponent of the ex-president, from her party leadership position as the third-highest-ranking official in the GOP legislature. This move was approved by the majority of the 212 Republicans in the House of Representatives and she was replaced by Elise Stefanik, a young member who is loyal to Trump.
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Although Trump lost the election, he remained the focus of February’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), with his speech at the convention reflecting his continued influence in the Republican Party. CPAC is one of the most influential groupings of US Republicans and is described as setting the party’s political orientation.
In light of Trump’s efforts to assert his authority over the Republican Party and expand his political work after the presidency, he has created a political action committee (PAC) with the aim of organizing the collection and spending of funds in support of certain candidates. The Save America PAC will enable Trump to raise unlimited amounts of money from almost any source, without facing any spending restrictions. It has reportedly raised $85 million already.
It can be said that, despite Trump’s continued control of the Republican Party, his candidacy for the next presidential election is not a certainty. There are many challenges facing him, including the need to communicate with his large base of voters, which can be achieved through the return of his accounts on social media. Thus, the future of the party itself remains unclear. Alongside those members who offer their full support to Trump, many others are trying to distance themselves from him to preserve their political future.
- Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher, and writer. She holds an MA in Political Sociology from the University of Lyon. Twitter: @bilarakib