Earl Ofari Hutchinson
“Liz, you’re fired,” Trump roared not to hundreds but thousands who attended a rally recently in Casper, Wyoming. He was lambasting GOP congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of his most vociferous GOP critics. She almost certainly was doomed to lose her seat to a Trump-backed challenger in the GOP primary. The Wyoming Trump rally was part devotional, part revival, and part Trump adulation. The rash of probes, FBI raids, subpoenas, and congressional hearings into his role in inciting the January 6 Capitol insurrection meant absolutely nothing to the Trump throngs.
The Wyoming Trump lovefest and the certain defeat of Cheney were just one more sign that Trump’s grip on the GOP hasn’t loosened one bit. In the rash of primaries in several states the first week of August, Trump endorsed candidates who either won their primary jousts or were competitive. What was even scarier the Trump-backed candidates were a motley bunch of near-loon white nationalists, Biden election deniers, and conspiracy theorists. They were anything but nut case outliers. They are very much an intimate part of the political soul of the GOP going forward.
Many are still mystified about one of the greatest ironies of American politics. That is, how Trump, a guy that almost no one in the GOP political establishment, in the beginning, liked, despite everything dirty about him still owns and runs that establishment lock, stock, and barrel. Start with the numbers. The 74 million votes he got in his 2020 presidential loss 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. But it’s how Trump got those staggering numbers that still tell much about why GOP politicians of all stripes remain scared stiff of Trump.
In part, it’s rage and rebellion against the perceived wheel and dealing corporate, beltway Democrats and Republicans. In another, it’s a passionate belief that Trump talks the talk and fights the fight for less educated blue and rural collar workers, a healthy segment of middle-class suburbia, and a not inconsiderable number of Blacks and Hispanics. In even bigger part, it’s his deep tap of the racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, nativist, know nothing fear and loathing that is a foundational part of American life.
These remain powerful, undeniable forces that propel American politics. So powerful, that in spite of the irrefutable proof that the 2020 presidential vote and vote process was accurate and untainted, more than half of Republicans two years after the election still doggedly claim the election was stolen from Trump. They are 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.
Trump’s vote numbers and the frenzy of his backers are the life support of the GOP. Without them, the GOP is in graver danger of losing one or more of the nearly two dozen Senate seats that it must defend in the 2022 mid-term elections. Any GOP falling off the cliff here means the GOP can kiss any chance it has to take back the Senate goodbye. This would blow to smithereens McConnell’s long game of hectoring, harassing, and obstructing any and every major initiative of Biden and the Democrats in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. He must have the Senate firewall for that.
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 way off, maybe a long way off. White males still have outsized voter clout in the crucial Heartland states and the South.
Trump knows that and talks to them in the giant circus-like exhibitions he holds that pass for campaign rallies on their vote turf. He openly brags at his rallies that he’ll continue to do exactly what got him elected in 2016. That is to continue to play hard on his base’s latent racist, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, pseudo- patriotic sentiment. The added element in light of the probes, raids on his compound, and the January 6 congressional investigation are to play even harder on the conspiracy to get him theory.
The blunt reality is that Trump was always more than the titular head of the GOP. He was the point man for GOP policy and issues and, in a perverse way, the spur to get action on them. Trump showed that he could give the GOP a big boost in its relentless drive to damp down the Democratic voter turnout by rigging, playing dirty, and gerrymandering. The millions that swear by him still is frightening proof that the GOP is still very much Trump’s party.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is The Midterms Why They are So Important and So Ignored (Middle Passage Press) He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network