President Joe Biden was sworn in Wednesday, marking the end of Donald Trump’s tenure in the Oval Office. Make no mistake, however: while we’ve entered the post-Trump presidency, we’ve not entered the post-Trump era.
Contrary to media portrayals, the overrepresented NeverTrumpers with endless airtime feeding those portrayals, and a turbulent exit threatening to taint the accomplishments of his administration exploited by the left, Trump remains the most popular Republican in the country, enjoying enormous clout over a major political party in his post-presidency as the elephant in the room to be reckoned with. The Democrats’ latest impeachment escapade demanding the Senate now remove a president who’s already left office helps prove it.
On the eve of the House vote over a hastily drafted article without a single hearing on the issue, Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney launched a futile effort to rally her caucus colleagues, whom she serves as conference chair, to endorse the Democrats’ impeachment. In the end, only nine House Republicans joined her, several of which had already announced plans to vote for the measure anyway. One-hundred and ninety-seven Republicans still backed the president.
More so, Trump left office with the Republican Party in far better shape than President George W. Bush did more than 10 years ago. In November, House Republicans flipped 14 seats for a net gain of 11 despite projections they would lose even more, many running on pro-Trump platforms. Not a single House Republican incumbent lost re-election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will now preside over the weakest majority of her speakership with a mere 10-vote advantage. In 2009, Bush left the presidency with Pelosi having a 79-vote majority.
Democrats were also denied a clear legislative mandate in the upper chamber when barely eking out a majority for the sheer reason that they won the presidency, and therefore the vice presidency to serve as the tie-breaking vote in a 50-50 Senate. Democrats landed a super-majority four months after Bush left office when then-Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter switched parties, creating a 60-40 Democrat-controlled chamber.
Trump also left office Wednesday enjoying a higher nationwide approval than did Bush. According to RealClearPolitics’ aggregate of polls, Trump enjoys an approval rating of more than 40 percent, with several surveys conducted after a horde of supporters and agitators stormed the Capitol in an insurrectionist raid blamed entirely on the now ex-president. His actions might have encouraged the events that happened that day on Jan. 6, but he didn’t tell them to go riot, as his routine detractors claim.
Bush, on the other hand, left the Oval Office with a RealClear averagesupport of 29 percent.
What Trump’s next steps are, no one is certain. A conviction in the Senate is already on track to make ex-president a martyr, emboldening his strength and influence among his loyal supporters by reinforcing their convictions of Trump as their righteous leader railing against the establishment at all odds. A failed second Democratic effort would only embolden him, just as the first. While conviction may bar the big man from running for office again, it won’t bar his kids, who appear positioned to launch successful political careers of their own by capitalizing on the movement their father started.
Even taking out Trump won’t stop Trumpism, a brand of conservative populism that rejects the old world order of adverse trade agreements, an interventionist foreign policy, and the woke corporate empires suffocating free enterprise to enrich the self-righteous elite at the expense of “flyover country,” mocking them in the process. The novel political ideology Trump ultimately got his name attached to is based on issues simmering under the surface. Trump’s rise was a symptom of these deep underlying issues at the core of the electorate. Trump recognized them, became their champion, and simply rode it the White House.
Abandoning the Republican Party would be a mistake for Trump, who, absent a conviction in the Senate, would be a formidable challenger in 2024 despite his blunders of refuting the last election. If anyone thinks Trump can’t run and win again, he hasn’t been paying attention to the last four years. Of course, Trump’s odds would look a lot better had he conceded the November race by December.
Leaving the Republican Party to launch his own party, however, would ensure expanded Democratic majorities in 2022 and a second Biden term in 2024, if not, heaven forbid, Kamala Harris.
The Republican Party of today remains the Republican Party of Trump. Another impeachment won’t change that, no matter how hard beltway Republicans might try. Internal divisions exist, but as the House illustrated last week, the party is firmly behind Trumpism. If Trump does leave to start his own, then the Cheney-sought GOP civil war will come to fruition, splitting the party in general races as opposed to the primary contests where such divisions are sorted out, and where Trump has the advantage.
The one thing certain, however, is that Trump has left the White House, but he’s not left the game.