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Much will change for Republicans when Joe Biden becomes president next month. But their party can still be defined by the same old question: what will Donald Trump do next?
Since launching his White House candidacy in 2015, Mr. Trump has remodeled the Republican Party in its populist image, embracing far-right rhetoric, elevating once marginalized elements of the grassroots and shifting conservative ideology to issues such as foreign policy, immigration and trade.
Republicans praised his ability to deliver on key elements of their political agenda – like installing conservative judges and passing tax cuts – and have remained silent on the rest, fearing the backlash that could result from the crossing of the president. Those who criticized Mr. Trump quickly found themselves retired, defeated, or declaring themselves political independents.
Now Mr. Trump will be leaving Washington. And Republicans wonder what political influence Mr. Trump will have with him.
“The reality is none of us know that,” said Chip Lake, a Georgia-based political consultant. “I’m not even sure the president knows what a post-presidential Donald Trump looks like politically.
Already, there are signs that even in defeat, Mr. Trump continues to dominate his party. More than 100 Republican members of Congress and 17 attorneys general have backed a lawsuit in Texas to overturn election results in four swing states and invalidate the votes of millions of Americans – despite no significant evidence of wrongdoing. (The Supreme Court dismissed the complaint on Friday night.)
Across the country, Mr. Trump’s conspiracy over election results has led to civil war within the GOP Trump loyalists in the States Parties, installed by the campaign in leadership positions last year, stand are fighting with elected Republican officials, whom they see as not pursuing Mr. Trump’s efforts sufficiently to reverse his loss.
These tensions worry many strategists, candidates and Republican officials. Mr. Trump has led a record number of Republican voters to the polls this year, broadening support for the party in rural areas and among voters of color. But it’s not clear whether the new voters who ran for Mr. Trump will become loyal Republicans if he’s not on the ticket – or if he actively campaigns against the party’s candidates.
Over the past few weeks, Mr. Trump has encouraged the main challenges against Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, prompting some staunch allies to consider running against them. He attacked Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who is barred from running for re-election by state term limit, but was mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2024.
And then there is the question of Mr. Trump’s own ambitions. He’s scheduled to show up again in 2024, kicking off as early as this month or perhaps on inauguration day. He has raised over $ 200 million since polling day, channeling some of that money to a new political action committee he formed after the election.
As they often did in Trump’s day, Republicans find themselves in uncharted political waters. Traditionally, ex-presidents have avoided partisan fights, only returning to the fray for the final weeks of a general election.
“Is Trump going to come out and basically announce an exploratory committee and start having rallies?” If that’s the case, I think he’s able to maintain a fairly high boil, ”said David Kochel, a former senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. “If it doesn’t, the party might be able to start moving away from the Trump presidency and entertaining other leaders.”
Some Republicans believe that, as the fervor around the election wears off, Mr. Trump’s influence may also wane. Others doubt he will remain focused on politics, given the financial and legal difficulties his companies face and the reduced media coverage of his every move.
“I personally believe that once he is removed from his post and takes over the management of his company, he may find that he enjoys doing this much more than he likes being president. “said Juliana Bergeron, member of the New Hampshire Republican National Committee.
If Mr. Trump even mount a near-serious bid for a second term, he would freeze the vast field of Republicans quietly plotting the start of a presidential election. Some potential candidates may be disheartened by Mr. Trump’s grip on the party base, with its vast mailing list, staunch supporters and growing war chest. Others may find it difficult to present themselves as bearers of the president’s legacy if Mr. Trump himself stays on the ground.
Another Trump campaign – or just the prospect of another – could also create difficult political currents for low-voting Republican candidates, especially those from battlefield states.
In 2022, the party will once again have to defend Senate seats in a number of changing states – although having a Democrat in the White House should improve its odds, given that the president’s party typically loses seats during elections. midterm elections. Some Republicans are eager to move beyond the divisions of the Trump era and embrace a message that can win back commuters in states like North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
Throughout his presidency, Mr. Trump has rejoiced in supporting the main Republican challengers, choosing loyalists who typically win primaries but often lose competitive general elections. If he continues to meddle in the primaries as a former president, the fear is that the party could end up with candidates who have little appeal beyond their own base.
Of course, American policy is not as consistent as Mr. Trump’s far-right political strategy. The whims of the country can change quickly, and a revolutionary political style in 2016 could be retro by 2024.
As Mr. Kochel said, pointing out the swing the Republicans have made in four years from Mr. Romney to Mr. Trump: “We are still one candidate far from changing the image and brand of the party.
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Fighting for Cabinet picks seems almost picturesque after four years of epic clashes by the Trump administration. Yet rank-and-file activists, policy advocates and party leaders find plenty of nourishment in Mr. Biden’s candidates.
Environmental activists and anti-hunger advocates are unhappy with Tom Vilsack’s potential return as head of the agriculture department. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are concerned about the appointment of retired General Lloyd Austin, a recently uniformed military commander, as Secretary of Defense – the highest post of civilian leadership in the Pentagon. And Republicans are already threatening to delay the confirmation of Xavier Becerra as secretary for health and human services, questioning his lack of expertise in public health.
At least some – if not almost all – of Mr. Biden’s candidates risk facing opposition from Republicans in the Senate.
Here’s our list of Mr. Biden’s picks so you can keep up with the incoming administration.
… That’s the number of Republican attorneys general who backed Mr. Trump in a brief to the Supreme Court that sought to delay certification of presidential voters in four battlefield states lost by the president. It was the latest attempt in Mr. Trump’s increasingly desperate effort to change the election outcome.
Legal experts have largely dismissed the lawsuit as a publicity stunt. And experts have said that a statistical claim in the lawsuit – that Mr. Biden’s chances of winning all four battlefield states were “less than one in a quadrillion” – was “comical.”
The Supreme Court dismissed the complaint Friday night, saying Texas lacked standing to pursue the case.
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