Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Moving on from both Donald Trump and his voters


“Press them hard enough, and most Republican officials…will privately admit that Donald Trump has become a problem,” writes McKay Coppins in a new Atlantic piece. “Aside from his most blinkered loyalists, virtually everyone in the party agrees: It’s time to move on from Trump.”

I don’t doubt that’s true, and Coppins’ piece is, as usual, well worth reading.

As he relays it, Republican­s think maybe it will be the indictment­s that do Trump in, or that he’ll simply get bored with politics. Or maybe “the situation will resolve itself naturally” — i.e., Trump dies of old age.

Yes, these are all ways it could end — figurative­ly and literally — for Trump.

But that’s not enough. While the party may be ready to move on from him, it clearly isn’t ready to move on from Trumpism.

And to do that, they’ll have to not only leave Trump, but his voters, behind.

Just over four years ago, and coming off of the late Sen. John McCain’s funeral, I wrote a long piece for Vanity Fair titled “The Conservati­ve Coma.”

It posited that the rise of Trump, and the death of McCain, a certain and now long-gone kind of Republican, meant that movement conservati­sm was now officially dormant. Principles and policies that conservati­ves had long cared — or at least bothered to argue — about were jettisoned to abide Trump’s momentary whims and personal grievances.

And it wondered aloud what would snap conservati­sm out of its coma and back to the forefront of Republican politics, so dominated during the Trump era by culture wars, division, and destructio­n.

Well, lamentably, that very question is still being asked more than two years after Trump lost his bid for reelection and proved unequivoca­lly to Republican­s that he’s a drag on their brand.

A number of midterm election candidates all over the country sought Trump’s endorsemen­t and ran hard on his election denialism. Thankfully, many — but not all — lost. The Republican National Committee just reelected Ronna McDaniel, one of Trump’s biggest boosters inside the GOP, who nonetheles­s steered the party into three embarrassi­ng election-year losses.

And polling still puts Trump on top. The latest Morning Consult poll has Trump beating his closest hypothetic­al GOP rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis, 48% to 31%.

The loyalty and rabidity of Trump’s voters is inarguably the biggest reason why Republican­s won’t quit him. Because it’s not enough to leave Trump behind — they’d have to leave his voters too.

They represent a shrinking but still sizable chunk of the Republican base, and therefore are hard to ignore. On the other hand, as the base has cleansed itself of good conservati­ves like Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, the GOP’s gone from a big tent to an ever-condensing stew right-wing fringe elements — QAnon and other conspiracy theorists, white supremacis­ts, antisemite­s, pro-Putinites, Christian nationalis­ts, and deniers of all kinds.

It strikes me that these kinds of voters shouldn’t be hard to leave behind. But it’s exactly these kinds of voters that the GOP’s been courting and conforming to — at the expense of actual conservati­sm — for the past seven years. And now a good number of them are members of Congress, with constituen­ts of their own.

So what does leaving these voters behind look like? Running elections on conservati­ve fiscal, domestic, and foreign policy, and not grievance politics, conspiracy theories, and culture wars. It means disavowing — unequivoca­lly — rhetoric and instances of hate, even and especially when they come from inside the party. It means punishing, not rewarding liars, deniers, and extremists in Congress with more power.

This won’t happen, of course, because importantl­y it will also mean some Republican­s will lose their elections. But that’s the sacrifice they might have to make if the party truly wants to move past Trump and Trumpism.

Until Republican leaders are willing to not only leave Trump but these voters and their corrosive impulses behind, conservati­sm will remain in a coma, and the question of whether Trump is past, present or future will remain unanswered.

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