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It seems that some Republican senators are having trouble reading the room. These individuals appear to believe that after being acquitted in the Democrat-led sham impeachment trial, former President Donald Trump is going to be forced to ride off into the sunset.
It is this lack of self-awareness that made Trump necessary in the first place. But in the words of comedian Kevin Hart, “they’re gonna learn today.”
The Hill reported, “though only seven of the 50 GOP senators voted to find Trump ‘guilty’ at the end of his second impeachment trial, Republicans, including those who voted to acquit, are plotting a future where Trump is no longer their center of gravity after years of dominating their day-to-day lives.
Trump is showing no signs of going away, saying in a statement after the trial concluded that the MAGA movement was just getting started. But Republicans say he has a diminished following and competition for the party’s top spot.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), a close Trump ally, said, “he’s made it pretty difficult to gain support. As you can tell, there’s some support that will never go away, but I think that is a shrinking population and probably shrinks a little bit after this week.”
Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), who voted to acquit Trump, said, “I think whatever the president intends to do in the future would take a lot of soul searching. … I am more concerned about how we rebuild the party in a way that brings in more people to it.”
The senators’ comments underscore a growing sentiment among Republican leaders that the riots at the U.S. Capitol building have diminished Trump’s popularity and influence to the point that he will no longer possess a significant level of leadership on the right.
The Hill reported:
The shifts were on full display in recent days: Most Republicans have been careful not to defend Trump personally, members of the caucus have privately discussed whether there would be enough support to censure the president and the seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump spanned fiscal conservative to moderates.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) stressed that those who voted to acquit Trump were not necessarily condoning his behavior since Election Day. “There’s no way. You can’t defend much of what happened in the last almost three months since the Nov. 3 election,” he said.
Still, Trump’s resolve has not dampened; indeed, it seems to have been strengthened by the outcome of the impeachment trial. “This has been yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our Country. … Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” Trump declared in a statement.
Republicans who believe that Trump will no longer be an important factor going forward do not appear to have an accurate read of the playing field. As The Hill admitted, “Trump retains an iron grip on a chunk of the party base – the same voters Republicans will need if they want to win back the House and Senate next year.”
What these GOP lawmakers fail to understand is the impact Trump has on the culture of the conservative movement. He may not have power as an elected official, but as a cultural influencer, he has more power than these people can comprehend. Over the next few years, Trump will demonstrate the political version of Master Obi-Wan Kenobi’s warning to Darth Vader when he said “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can imagine.”
The reality that folks like Thune, Cramer, and the GOP lawmakers who voted to convict Trump is that he wields far more influence among rank-and-file conservative voters than every member of the GOP establishment combined. Did the riots diminish some of his influence? Probably, but not to the point that it would prevent him from continuing to be a powerhouse.
The former president is already preparing to use his influence and $31 million war chest to target lawmakers who want to wipe his populist movement from the face of conservatism as if it never happened. Those trying to downplay the sway Trump continues to have on the right are underestimating the anger that everyday conservative voters feel towards the establishment. Their miscalculation could cost them bigly in the 2022 election season.