Trump, the GOP, and the House

The next two years are going to be very interesting to observe with respect to the future of the Republican Party and Donald Trump's leadership role. Ten Republican members of the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president in the second sham impeachment proceeding against him, despite the fact that he was about to leave office.

Not one Republican voted for impeachment the first go-round.  This strongly suggests that the first vote was more about self-preservation than an actual endorsement of the president.  It would not bode well for a congressman to vote against the leader of his own party, a leader who seemed likely at the time to win re-election in two years and whose endorsement might prove valuable to the congressman's own re-election bid.  Any member of Congress hoping to remain in his seat would likely swallow his distaste for the president and vote not to impeach.

Granted, two of the ten were not seated members of the House at the time of the December 2019 vote; Donald Valadao of California, who originally won his seat in 2012, lost it in 2018 and then won it back this past fall, and Peter Meijer of Michigan, just elected in November of 2020, was a member of Congress for all of a week at the time of the impeachment vote.  They both voted for the president's removal from office on what was their first opportunity to do so.

Donald Trump is all about loyalty.  People might say he has not always been as loyal in return to some, but I believe that Trump sees this as "just rewards" to individuals who have failed him in some way.  A vote to impeach is certainly seen by Trump as disloyalty with a capital "D."

The obvious next step by the former president is an active role in finding and supporting primary opponents for the "disloyal ten."  Seven of the ten have already been put on notice by primary challengers, and the other three most likely won't have to wait long to see their own primary opposition form.  It's inconceivable that all ten won't be challenged.

Some of the "disloyal ten" pose more interesting situations.  A challenge to an incumbent is always difficult, often due to lack of financing for the challenger, though Trump and his supporters can certainly help overcome that monetary disadvantage.  Liz Cheney, a popular figure in Wyoming political circles owing in large part to her father, former vice president Dick Cheney, will likely be difficult to displace.  If Trump manages to help oust her, it will be a major victory for the MAGA faction of the party and a major blow to the Bush-Cheney Republican wing.

I think the case of the aforementioned David Valadao of California is also worthy of discussion.  Valadao represents a largely Hispanic district that Biden won handily.  Despite his disastrous start with the Latino vote, Trump made significant inroads with them, as well as with Blacks.  It would be interesting to see if Trump's people could find a Hispanic challenger to a congressman who is, for all intents and purposes, an independent rather than a card-carrying Republican.  Finding a MAGA true-believer Hispanic candidate to challenge Valadao would pose an interesting choice for the Hispanic voters of his district.  It would be almost a no-lose situation for Trump.  If a Trump-supported challenger won the primary but lost the general election, the Republicans won't have lost much in the House, as Valadao was no sure thing on any item on the Republican agenda.  If he won, it would be a major victory in Trump's attempt to bring minorities into the Republican fold.

If Trump and his supporters in these primary House challenges are largely unsuccessful, and if any Senate primary challenges, such as the almost certain challenge to Mitt Romney, are also unsuccessful, Trump and his followers will likely feel no loyalty to the GOP going forward.  At that point, I see Trump forming a third party.  Call it the MAGA Party, the Patriot Party, or what have you.  A third party, lacking infrastructure at most state levels, is a certain guarantee of Democratic victories, not only in 2024, but for the foreseeable future.  It would fatally damage the Republican Party.  Trump might well consider that "just rewards" in spades, but the rest of us will have to decide if we have severed our nose to spite our face.  It's going to be an interesting couple of years.

Image: Bernard DUPONT.

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