Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Yes, a pack of Trump’s Palm Beach neighbors made news with their effort to evict him from Mar-a-Lago. Yes, thousands opted out as Twitter followers of former Trump yes man Rudy Giuliani. And yes, there is still more anti-Trump news with Georgia state officials saying they’ll launch a criminal probe of Trump’s election tamper in that state. But this is all sideshow stuff and doesn’t change this blunt fact.
197 GOP House representatives said no to Trump’s impeachment. Roughly the same number of House Republicans said no again to stripping Trump yes woman Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee posts. In the other congressional wing, it’s almost certain all or most GOP senators will say no to a Trump impeachment conviction. Meanwhile, a legion of GOP controlled state legislatures are concocting dozens of bills to radically restrict voting.
It’s been three months since Trump decisively lost the election to Biden. Yet you can still count on one hand the number of top Republican officials who have appeared on the national Sunday TV talk shows to condemn Trump’s actions.
The sickening, disgusting, life-taking and threatening footage of the storming of the Capitol by Trump instigated terrorists January 6 looked like the Bolsheviks storming the Winter Palace that ignited the Russian Revolution. No matter, a parade of GOP senators flatly said that this was not enough to move them off the dime and vote for a Trump senate trial conviction. Their rally around their disgraced former President has nothing to do with personal or partisan like, dislike of the impeachment process aimed at one of their own. It’s a matter of numbers, fear, and brutal GOP political gamesmanship.
Trump’s 74 million votes is the greatest number of votes a losing presidential candidate has gotten in a free election anywhere, ever. In fact, it’s a greater number than any American presidential winner has ever gotten. How Trump got those staggering numbers tell much about why GOP politicians of all stripes are still scared stiff of an out of office Trump.
The 2022 midterms are around the corner. Nearly two dozen GOP senators are up for reelection. Many still have fresh memories of a decade ago when hard right Republican activists saber rattled GOP senators demanding they hue to their hard right political line. If they didn’t play ball, they’d find a hard rightist to run against them in the primary. No GOP incumbent wants to sweat through that nightmare again. The tens of millions of Trump backers loom big in their terror of having to face that prospect.
Trump has done his part to fuel that fear. He’s dropped lots of hints that he’ll punish any GOP rep who doesn’t continue to give him their full-throated support. Trump’s frenzied backers are the life support of the GOP. Any GOP fall off the cliff here from that support means kiss control of the Senate good-bye. This would blow to smithereens Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s long game of hectoring, harassing, and obstructing any and every major initiative of Biden and the Democrats. He must have the Senate firewall for that.
Even if Trump vanished in thin air overnight it wouldn’t alter the powerful, undeniable forces that propel American politics. So powerful, that despite the irrefutable proof that the 2020 presidential vote and vote process was accurate and untainted, more than half of Republicans still claim the election was stolen from Trump. They are still so enraged that they spin every kind of ridiculous conspiracy theory about the alleged theft and make clear they’ll never acknowledge the legitimacy of the Biden presidency.
Much is made that America will no longer be an old white guy run country in 2050, that white male voters have steadily dropped in national elections, and that Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women, and young persons will be the new majority voters. But that’s still a way off, maybe a long way off. White males still have outsized voter clout in the crucial Heartland states and the South.
Trump knew that and so does the GOP. This means continuing to play hard on his base’s latent racist, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, pseudo- patriotic sentiment.
This was always Trump’s ace card to tighten his paralyzing grip on the GOP mainstream leadership. It dutifully canceled primaries, blunted any incipient challenge from a few maverick Republicans who talked about taking Trump on. Most of all the GOP maintained its stone silence on all of Trump’s lies, vulgarities, and antics. A disgraced, out of office Trump hasn’t changed that one bit.
The great mystery to a lot of Americans was always why the GOP prostituted itself to a guy who by their own professed party principles and practices wouldn’t even rate backing for dog catcher. The reason is simple. Trump bullied, cajoled, intimidated, GOP leaders into believing that defying him spells doom for the candidate, incumbents in their reelection bids. This is the voter loyalty that buys a lot of support from the GOP establishment even as they flailed him or shaked their head in disgust at his toxic presidency. This hasn’t changed. That’s why Trump still owns the GOP.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College (Amazon) He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network. His political affairs commentaries can be found weekly on thehutchinsonreport.net.