The few Republican lawmakers who have broken with Trump have suffered a stinging backlash, John Whitesides at Reuters reminds us.
Representative Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives and one of 10 who voted for Trump’s impeachment, quickly faced an effort by conservatives to remove her from her leadership post. She survived it, but Trump has vowed to throw his support behind a primary challenger to her.
In Arizona, which backed Biden and elected a Democratic senator in November, the state party censured three prominent Republicans who had clashed with Trump while he was in office – Governor Doug Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, widow of the late Senator John McCain.
When Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska was threatened with censure by his state party for criticizing Trump, he suggested it was down to a cult of personality.
“Let’s be clear about why this is happening. It is because I still believe, as you used to, that politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude,” Sasse said in a video addressed to the party leadership in Nebraska. He was one of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump on Saturday.
The fissures have led to an open debate in conservative circles over how far right to lean. At Fox News, the cable news network that played a key role in Trump’s rise to power, Fox Corp Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch this week told investors the outlet would stick to its “center right” position.
Trump tore into the network after its early, and ultimately accurate, election-night projection that he lost in Arizona, presenting an opportunity for further-right video networks to draw disaffected Trump supporters.
“We don’t need to go further right,” Murdoch said. “We don’t believe America is further right, and we’re obviously not going to pivot left.”
While Trump maintains control over the party for now, several Republican senators said during the impeachment trial that the stain left by the deadly siege of the Capitol and Trump’s months of false claims about widespread election fraud would cripple his chances of winning power again in 2024.
“After the American public sees the whole story laid out here … I don’t see how Donald Trump could be reelected to the presidency again,” Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who also voted for a conviction, told reporters during the trial.
With Trump out of office and blocked from Twitter, his favorite means of communication, some Republicans said his hold on the party could fade as new issues and personalities emerge.
Republican Senator John Cornyn, a Trump ally, said the former president’s legacy had suffered permanent damage. “Unfortunately, while President Trump did a lot of good, his handling of the post-election period is what he’s going to be remembered for,” Cornyn said. “And I think that’s a tragedy.”