Five Thirty Eight has a piece on the post Trump Presidency Civil War and scramble to get to the head of the early 2024 President race ….
What’s difficult to say with Trump, however, is the extent to which future generations of Republicans will want to claim his mantle. On the one hand, it’s not actually clear that Trump had a winning electoral formula. In 2016, he built a coalition of more traditional Republican voters as well as white voters without college degrees, and that coalition was adequate for an Electoral College victory. But even growing that voter base in 2020 wasn’t enough to win reelection. When you combine this with the Republican Party’s losses in 2018 and its narrow loss of Senate control in the Georgia run-off elections in January, there are some reasons to believe that the Trump brand hasn’t been entirely good for Republican political fortunes. In fact, a number of reports suggest that congressional Republicans, as well as party donors, blame Trump for the party’s losses in Georgia.
The thing is, Trump does represent an idea that has appealed to some of his party’s voters: politics based on grievance, especially when linked to white identity. Trump has emerged as a powerful leader to this movement, claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, that the media and tech companies seek to silence voices on the right, and that institutions no longer work for “ordinary” (read: white) Americans. And while many establishment GOP members don’t agree with some of Trump’s more extreme words and actions, they have continued to defend him, or, at the very least, not really distance themselves from him. The upcoming impeachment trial and the fact that most GOP senators are likely to vote against his conviction speak to a long pattern left over from when Trump was still in office: criticize Trump’s actions, but ultimately don’t disavow him.
But while the party has maintained its steady, if uncomfortable, pattern of loyalty to Trump, the sheer number of ambitious politicians seeking to succeed Trump may leave little room for him in the party. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn have already proven, for instance, that they can grab headlines with their extreme views and actions without Trump. (And as with Trump, the media coverage is not overwhelmingly positive, and they have drawn some criticism from within their own party.) Of course, there is still a key difference between them and Trump in terms of power and influence: A group of representatives can make up a faction of a party, but only the president serves as the party’s mouthpiece.
There is another reason, though, to think that there might not be room for Trump in the Republican Party moving forward. Political science research has found that Republicans are actually quite successful in building a “farm team” in state and Congressional elections (compared to Democrats, who often struggle in this regard). This means that Republicans might not really struggle to find a replacement for Trump. It’s not hard to imagine, for instance, that there will one day be other ambitious Republicans — say, Sen. Josh Hawley or former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley — seeking higher office while claiming that they are the real heir to Trump’s legacy, even if they represent marked differences in style or approach. In fact, there are a number of signs that the party is already headed in this direction, trending away from more establishment GOP types and toward more Trump-style figures.
Yes, this speaks to Trump’s continued influence on the party, but it also doesn’t necessarily leave that much room for him. It’s hard for a former president to both represent an idea and be involved in the daily politics of the party.
After the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, it seemed like some establishment GOP leaders were ready to make a break from the 45th president. But it’s telling that mainstream Republicans are still mostly reluctant to publicly criticize Trump or his actions leading up to that day. It may also be indicative of how the ideas Trump represents took hold before he was elected. His presidency gave new power to the anti-establishment wing of the party, even though the former president didn’t create this faction. Right now, the GOP looks much more like Trump’s party than that of any moderate or establishment GOP alternative. It may be up to other politicians — not Trump — to determine exactly what that means….