A president who changed the party: Trump stamp on GOP will last long

Triumphant Trumpism will be a bane for a President Biden. Biden had hoped to work with mainstream Republicans and resurrect bipartisanship in Washington.
Protesters surround a dummy depicting United States President Donald Trump making a Nazi salute before burning it in Medellin, Colombia, on November 6, 2020, in the framework of the US election(Photo: AFP)
Protesters surround a dummy depicting United States President Donald Trump making a Nazi salute before burning it in Medellin, Colombia, on November 6, 2020, in the framework of the US election(Photo: AFP)
Updated on Nov 08, 2020 04:56 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByPramit Pal Chaudhari

President Donald Trump’s claims of opponents who are “trying to steal the elections” have led even US news channels to censor him. Most mainstream Republican leaders have declined to either support or criticise him, preferring to speak blandly about the need to honour the electoral process.

This has drawn the ire of his son, Don Trump Jr, who accused party leaders of “sitting on the sidelines.” One of the targets: Nikki Haley, the Indian-American seen as a Republican presidential hopeful. She has carefully praised Trump’s leadership but stopped there.

An angry Republican tweeted, “Nikki Haley is doing what?” eliciting praise from Trump’s son. One congressman accused Haley of “eulogizing” when others were “fighting” for the president.

Haley’s dilemma is shared by all moderate Republicans when faced with Trump’s reckless language. Only those confident of local support or near retirement, like Senators Susan Collins and Pat Toomey, have openly refuted Trump. Trump, admitted the New York Times, “will remain a hero” for the Republican electorate. As far as his base is concerned, he has again defied the establishment they despise. Pollsters, including of his own party, had predicted a landslide for Joe Biden. Instead, Trump clawed back seats in the lower house and may retain his Senate majority.

His share of the popular vote rose two percentage points. Though accused of being a racist, Trump won more minority votes than any Republican candidate in 60 years. When asked what he would do if defeated, the president used to half-jokingly say he would run in 2024. After his electoral performance, Trump’s aura with the US working class has only grown.

The Republican Party was always a chimera: a pro-business head grafted on to a working-class body.

Trump seized the base of the party, argued its leadership was no different from the liberal establishment, and tossed out tenets of rightwing ideology like free trade and fiscal sobriety.

Trump used his popularity with the faithful to bring the party leadership to its knees. Many Republican leaders quietly prayed for a sweeping Biden victory. “A cleansing landslide,” wrote National Review editor Rich Lowry of their hopes, so that “every trace of Trump and his enablers would be erased from the Republican Party” — except that didn’t happen. Instead, the middle-class intellectuals and businessmen who crafted the party’s rightwing ideology are likely to be pushed further to the margins.

In his first term, Trump depended on members of the Republican mainstream to staff his government.

While he had his way on trade and the fiscal deficit, he went along with them on regulations and taxes.

If he has a second term, the party fears he will move to impose his 19th century nativism in other areas such as ending the US’s overseas alliances and close down migration. Triumphant Trumpism will be a bane for a President Biden. Biden had hoped to work with mainstream Republicans and resurrect bipartisanship in Washington. After these poll results, Republican leaders will avoid shaking his hand and instead join Trump’s plans to wage a four-year guerrilla war against the new administration.

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