This was Donald Trump's own words in 2004: "In many cases, I probably identify more as Democrat. It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn't be that way. But if you go back, I mean it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats...But certainly we had some very good economies under Democrats, as well as Republicans. But we've had some pretty bad disaster under the Republicans." Not that Trump could exactly be called a Democrat. He changed political parties twice as often as he changed wives, affiliating himself with whatever party at the time would best increase his wealth, or lower his taxes. But more often than not, he supported Democrat candidates, and up until declaring himself a Republican president candidate had been an active fundraiser for the Democratic party. Months before declaring Hillary a criminal who should be locked up in prison for her e-mails, he was calling the Clintons his friends.
Today Trump claims to be a staunch conservative, embracing right wing ideology as his gospel, and acting as if he has always believed that way. His followers are buying this. To them he is the conservative messiah. They don't recognize that his extreme conservative views are an act, and his politics are really designed to benefit himself. His tax breaks and deregulations are designed to increase the net profits of the Trump organization and the companies of any of his friends. But his extremist and often unconstitutional policies designed to appease his base have alienated the traditional Republicans, as has his foreign policies which often punishes our allies and awards our enemies, his relentless attacks against judges and the justice department, his embracing of racist groups and demonization of social justice organizations, and flippant violation of laws both minor and major which he expects his political allies to cover up. For the past four years Republicans have gritted their teeth and backed Trump, no matter what new transgression or potential crime he had committed that week, or what new outrage he had tweeted that hour. Always the two hour pause to build up the will to defend the undefendable again, or to allow Trump to cross yet another line they vowed they would never let him cross, while they once again went on record saying the president did nothing wrong. Occasionally their emotions got the best of them, and they proclaimed they were troubled by something Trump had done, only to walk back their comments by the next morning.
The election of Joe Biden must have seemed like liberation for the Republicans who secretly detested Trump. His insistence on spreading the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, phone calls to Republican election officials attempting to strong arm them into either throwing out votes for Biden or stuffing the ballots with votes for Trump, and finally directing an angry mob full of armed Nazis to prevent the legal certification of Biden, was the final straw. Or so they hoped.
The Republican Party is now split between those willing to criticize Trump, and those who still insist on spreading his lies. The loyalty test: proclaiming the 2020 election was stolen, despite no evidence of this happening and an overwhelming mountain of evidence the election was secure. If you are willing to proclaim this lie then you are a Trump ally. If you deny it, then Trump will campaign against you in the next primary and destroy your political career. Some Republicans are attempting to appease Trump by claiming there were irregularities in the election, but not saying the irregularities were enough to account for the millions of votes Biden had over Trump.
The problem is Trump is not looking for a compromise. He wants Republicans who will claim that in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, Democrats were able to overturn and stuff millions of votes, and that Trump actually won by a landslide in both elections. Many Republicans recognize this for what it is. Trump wanting the Republican Party to be the Trump Party, who's sole purpose is to support Trump. They worry that traditional Republicans have had enough of Trumpism, and will leave the party if it continues to cowtow to Trump. Or worse, what will happen if the Republicans do take back the House and Senate in 2022, and then a loyal Trump Congress overturns the 2024 election in favor of Trump, followed by them amending the constitution to make Trump president for life, and his family the heirs to the thrown. Our forefathers worst nightmare, America becoming a monarchy. Either future for them is unacceptable.
But perhaps the worst insult of all is that Trump has declared any Republican who doesn't support him a RINO, an insult for conservatives which basically means Republican In Name Only. Politicians who join the Republican Party just to get elected, and then pursue their own political agenda once in office. Not true Republicans. Trump has used this insult against any party member who has dared not keep him in office, even if it meant them breaking the law and subverting the constitution in behalf of Trump. It now applies to any Republican who doesn't declare that the 2020 election was stolen.
Of course this is infuriating to most Republican politicians. All evidence shows Trump never publicly supported conservative politics prior to the 2020 election. It is a fact Trump became a born again Republican at the same time he first began running for president. He had no chance of winning the Democratic ticket as they had such strong candidates as Hillary and Obama. But the Republicans were in disarray after George Bush II. The field included several Tea Party candidates, several establishment Republicans who had failed at past nomination bids, Chris Christie who was tarnished by Bridgegate, and Jeb Bush who would have been the frontrunner if not for being tarnished by his Brother's presidency. And they also had what was by that time an easily manipulated base raised on FOX News and Rush Limbaugh who were willing to vote for the most conservative candidate, even if it meant reelecting George Bush to a second term above a sensible candidate like John Kerry. The Democrats didn't have a United base, and tended to keep candidates like Trump from winning the ticket, and instead pick the safest candidate. Trump's best chance of winning any nomination was to run in the Republican primaries.
While he had initially registered as a Republican in 1987, he played both sides of the fence when it came to backing politicians, eventuallyleaving the party. In 1999 he registered for the Reform Party, and ran in their 2000 primaries. He dropped out soon after a poll showed him at 7% behind George Bush and Al Gore in a three way race shouldhe have won the Reform ticket. Almost immediately after his presidential bid fizzled, Trump left the Reform party, citing it had members like Pat Buchanan and David Duke. He would later claim his presidential run was just publicity for his latest book.
He had befriended the Clintons, officially registered as a Democrat in 2001, became a Hillary supporter in her 2008 bid for the Whitehouse, then quit the party when Hillary lost the primaries to Barack Obama. He immediately became an Obama critic, publicly endorsing Republican John McCain. When Obama won, he became a vocal supporter of the Birther movement which saught to remove Obama from office over the disproven theory that Obama wasn't born in the United States. Otherwise he never showed any inkling he was a conservative, and continued to say his politics aligned more with Democrats than Republicans. In 2011 he rejoined the Republican for a bid at the 2012 elections, claiming only he could beat Obama while at the same time claiming Obama was the worst president this country ever had. He was quickly talked out of running as his advisors convinced him Republicans would not vote for a candidate in the primary who had just joined their party. And if he wanted to win a national election, that he had a better chance in 2016, provided the unpopular Hillary Clinton won the Democratic ticket. He continued to be an Obama critic and promoted the Birther conspiracy theory even after an American birth certificate was produced. However, while criticizing every one of Obama's policies, he stated in a 2015 interview that he sided with much of the Democratic platform, just weeks before his famous escalator speech.
In June of 2015 Trump officially announced his campaign to run for president in front of a handful of members of the press, and a small crowd of supporters, many who said they were actors sent by an agency hired by the Trump organization to make it appear as if a crowd had shown up. Trump may have not had real supporters that day, but his xenophobic speech insured that by the time the primaries started, he could fill stadiums full of supporters. In what many would call racist, including NBC who fired him as host of The Apprentice for the speech, Trump accused Mexico of deliberately sending over rapists and murderers, basically calling all South American immigrants to this country criminals.
Republicans were quick to denounced the speech, but had basically promoted the same ideas for the past decade using coded language. Xenophobes and racists saw Trump as the first politician with the guts to say that the Mexicans entering our country were dangerous criminals. On Trump's part, his speech was calculated to win over the xenophobes and racists. There is no evidence Trump ever believed South Americans were a threat prior to his speech. In fact, evidence has shown the Trump organization had employed undocumented aliens, mostly Hispanic, at both their construction sites, and as the staff at Trump's resorts. While there is yet any proof Trump knew undocumented aliens were under his employment, that would mean there wasn't any attempt by his company to vet their employees before hiring them, nor did Trump ever question how he was able to get such cheap labor.
In the months that followed, Trump portrayed himself as the ultimate extremist conservative, often making statements that were borderline racist. The strategy worked. Republicans were thrilled with his message. The problem was the strategy was only good enough to win over a party that had driven off most of it's moderates with the Bush administration, and was now dominated by conservatives radicalized by decades of rightwing media. There wasn't a candidate in that race who knew they could win the primaries by being a radical conservative. The problem is that once nominated as the parties candidate, they would then need to appeal to the rest of America, most of which are centrists. Most Americans hold no allegiance to either party, but are reluctant to vote for any candidate that is too liberal or too conservative. Which is why even Tea Party candidates keep their politics toned down during the primaries. They need to widen their base to win the general election. Trump showed no signs of doing this, resulting in polls showing him as the most unpopular presidential candidate in American history.
However, he was fortunate enough to be contested against the second most unpopular presidential candidate in America history. The Republicans had successfully turned Hillary Clinton into a bogeyman through endless investigations and hearings. It didn't matter that no evidence of her ever doing anything illegal was ever found, by 2016 most Americans thought she was guilty of something. Especially with the Republicans chanting "Lock Her Up!" at their convention. The defaming of Clinton went back to the days her husband was president with the Star investigation which could not find any criminal wrongdoing by the couple, so instead settled for looking to prosecute Bill for covering up an affair. It continued through the email hearings and FBI investigations which concluded no actual crime had been committed. Specifically because no law existed ( and still doesn't exist ) punishing the use of a private server for classified emails. Whether Hillary is a clever criminal who was successful in hiding evidence of her crimes, or as the investigations concluded, had not done anything close to being illegal, the Republicans did such a good smear job that Americans not only believed she must be guilty of something, but began to genuinely dislike her. Trump's unpopularity was of his own making. He was a popular celebrity prior to the beginning of his campaign, but his angry race baiting rhetoric drove away most of his fans.
Prior to their Convention, the RNC had to decide if they would endorse this outsider who was about to be nominated on their ticket, or denounce him. Perhaps if Joe Biden had run for and won the Democratic nomination, the Republicans would have been more willing to throw an election. But Trump's opponent was their nightmare Hillary Clinton. Some congressmen were already suggesting they would have her impeached on day one, irregardless of the conclusion of the email investigation. However, Republicans could not count on all their congressmen voting to remove Hillary, or even if the few who even suggested it would actually call for the hearings. The only way to keep Hillary out of office, was to make sure Trump was elected. But they still met with him to make sure he was on their side. If Trump agreed to rubber stamp all their bills into laws, nominated the judges they picked, help them dismantle everything Obama had done in the past eight years and generally be an obedient dog to their party, he would have their full support.
This was the Republicans point of no return. They were going to try to get another woefully inadequate candidate elected as president after the Bush presidency nearly destroyed the party. There was hope that if elected, Trump would surround himself with advisors who would basically run the country for him, or at the least keep him from doing anything stupid. The problem was that Trump was claiming he knew how to do things better than any of the established politicians, even claiming he knew how to run the military better than four star generals. If he actually believed he knew how to run the government better than experienced politicians, would he even listen to advisors? They must have realized they would need to paper over all of Trumps mistakes. What they didn't realize was they would need an entire forest worth of paper before Trump's term was up, or they would need to start papering on day one.
To everyone's shock, the most unpopular American presidential candidate in history, who was trailing in the polls, managed to win the election. Exactly how Trump was able to pull this off confounds political experts to this day, but all agree the October surprise of James Colmey announcing Hillary was once again under criminal investigation for the emails was a big factor in flipping the "lesser of two evils" votes from Hillary to Trump. What it meant for the Republican Party was replacing the Hillary nightmare with the Trump nightmare.
Any hope that Trump could be tamed evaporated in his first full day at the job, when he instructed his press secretary to lie and announced that his inauguration ceremony had the largest crowds in history, when aerial photographs clearly showed attendance was a third of what Obama had at his inauguration. Although tame compared to what would come next, Trump instructing his own press secretary to tell "alternative facts" would be just the first in escalating outrages that the entire Republican Party was expecting to first excuse, then throw their support behind. Within months the advisors Republicans hoped would guide Trump were either fired or quit out of disgust, replaced with advisors he expected to be his yes men. Every Sunday morning Republicans had to play damage control for something the president had done that past week. Quite often to their own peril. As when a Republican senator would appear on Face the Nation to walk back or reinterpret one of Trump's controversial statements, claiming Trump didn't mean it or was just making a joke, only for Trump to double down on the statement in a tweet while the Senator was still live on the air.
Republicans were counting on two things. One, that Trump would learn on the job, and by mid term would be acting the way a president should. The other, that when his time in the Whitehouse ended America would have a strong economy, the current litmus test for how successful a presidential administration was. The Republican platform had been "Make America Great Again", which meant Trump would need to leave office with the country in much better condition than the day he was sworn in. However, they soon began to realize that Trump refused to learn, and would never grow into the job. And his unothordox governing was, at the least, putting our country and economy in constant risk. If America did become great again, it would be by fluke. Republicans realized the next four years would be them mitigating the damage Trump was causing on almost a daily basis.
They had an out. Impeachment. A combination of inexperience and an attitude that he was rich enough to skirt the laws he didn't agree with meant that there would very likely be enough to impeach Trump whenever they wanted. Preferably mid term so Mike Pence, who would replace him, could run as incumbent for two more elections. Two years time for Americans to warm up to a normal uncontroversial president, just in time for the next election. Republicans had a huge gift handed to them when Trump fired the lead investigator of the election probe, FBI director James Comey. Why would Trump fire the man who helped him win the election if he didn't have something to hide? It was strongly suspected Trump may have colluded with Russia to win the election, which would be grounds for impeachment the whole nation could get behind. Even if not the case, there was reason to believe Trump would actively shut down the Mueller investigation, or at the least obstruct it, both which had been grounds to impeach Nixon, had Nixon not resigned.
The out was the Republicans insurance policy. If Trump turned out to be the disaster they thought he could be, then they could remove him. He wasn't really a Republican, just pretending to be, so removing him from office would not be like turning on their own. And Mike Pence would take over, so the Republicans would still hold the Whitehouse. But this out could only work if the Republican party backed it. Instead, the opposite happened. Mueller uncovered no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, although pointed out they were prevented from questioning key witnesses or having access to documents that may have been evidence if collusion did happen. Mueller documented all of Trump's obstruction of the investigation, but instead of concluding it was obstruction, left it to Congress to read the report and determine if what Trump did was illegal.
And then there was Mitch McConnell. As far as he was concerned, impeachment of Trump would be a loss for the Republicans, even if Trump was a pretender. This was and still is a fatal flaw with the party. Members who are too determined not to allow the Democrats to have any victory, even if that victory would be in the Republicans best interest. Impeachment of a Republican president, even Trump, was seen as a victory for Democrats. And McConnell was determined not to allow Democrats to have that victory. Besides that, under Trump's administration, McConnell had become very powerful, and was not about to yeild some of his power to a Pence administration. So even if Trump had fired Mueller, even if they had video evidence of Trump in a meeting with Putin plotting to fix the election, even if Trump had shot someone to death on Fifth Avenue, McConnell would corral the Senat into not convicting him. As for the Democrats, most wondered if impeaching Trump was wise. He had been so divisive that the Democrats saw an unprecedented blue wave during the 2018 midterm elections where many traditionally Republican districts protest voted for Democrats. If that outrage lasted through the next election, then Trump and many other Republicans would be voted out of office. Removing Trump would put Pence in office, who would be the incumbent in the 2020 and 2024 elections.
Not impeaching Trump made him more powerful. It was painted as the Russian Hoax, the Collusion Delusion and the Greatest Witchhunt in History. It was portrayed as the Democrats attempt to overturn the 2016 election, ignoring that the Republicans initiated the Mueller investigation. But no evidence of treason seemed to prove to Republicans that the Democrats had made the whole thing up in a desperate attempt to remove Trump from office, which in turn won over many Republicans who had previously been Never Trumpers, and strengthened his support with his base. And emboldened Trump to believe he could get away with anything. The day after the Mueller report was released without charging him with any crime, he was calling the Ukraine to pressure their president into interfering in the 2020 election.
While the Republicans allowed Trump to get away with the Ukrainian phone call, causing the siege of the Capitol Building in an attempt to overturn an election he lost was a bit too far. For the past four years Republican politicians were forced to back Trump no matter what he did. As long as Mitch McConnell demanded they do so, and Trump threatened to turn his supporters against anyone who went against him, to challenge Trump in any way wasn't just going against their own party, but political suicide. With exception to Mitt Romney, the only Republicans with the guts to denounce anything that Trump had done were the ones retiring from politics. Now with Trump leaving the Whitehouse after an election loss which also resulted in the loss of the Senate for Republicans, many of the closest critics of Trump finally had the nerve to speak up against him.
They had one final chance to rid Donald Trump of the Republican Party for good. Democrats began a historic second impeachment against the president for instigating the insurgency. The Republicans voting on impeachment would be both witnesses to the alleged crime, and victims of it. And since Trump would be out of office by the time the Senate trial began, they would not be removing a Republican pr esident from office. There was one obstacle. Mitch McConnell. Even though Trump was clearly guilty, McConnell considered a Senate conviction of a Republican president a win for the Democrats. So he rallied Republicans to vote in favor of Trump with the excuse that impeachment against a president no longer in office was unconstitutional. However, he wasn't allowing Trump off Scott free. No sooner was Trump found not guilty that McConnell announced that what Trump did was criminal and he should be tried on criminal charges.
This left the Republicans deeply divided between those who had become Trump's disciples, and those who had little choice but to supported him while he was still in office and were glad to see him go. Just like with Bush 12 years earlier, it was time to distance the Republican Party from an unpopular president. However, Bush didn't rise to cult leader status among half the party, and he agreed to step out of the spotlight even before he left office. Trump insists he owns the Republican Party, and half the members believe he is legally still the president. They can't just sneak away and pretend Trump didn't happen as they did with Bush. They can't just hope he is convicted for one of his many alleged crimes. His lawyers could forestall or delay any prosecution for years, long enough to run for president again, seeking that presidential immunity that has kept prosecutors at bay for the past four years. Though many of his followers feel betrayed for him abandoning them after the failed insurrection, most still believe in him, and will vote for him no matter what he is charged with or what evidence is presented by the prosecution. Donald Trump is the truth, and everything else is fake news.
The Republican establishment should have cut ties with Trump back in 2016. Admit what they believed was the truth. That Trump was a disruptive outsider who gamed the system to get their parties nomination, but was no true Republican. Held him responsible for any crime he may have committed in office and join the Democrats in impeaching him the first chance they got. They could have still held the Whitehouse under Pence. Instead they are in a fatal predicament. Continue to kowtow to Trump and eventually no one outside of Trump's supporters will vote Republican, eventually eroding them down to third party status, and collapsing once Trump either passes on, or loses interest in politics. Or stand up to Trump, which would mean his followers would try to eliminate them in the primaries, and on top of that admitting they had gutlessly supported a president they knew was wrecking the country for four years.
This should be a period of rebuilding for the Republican party. Instead, Trump insists on diving the party the same way he divided the country for his entire administration. His agenda is to rid the party of anyone not 100% his lackey. If he succeeds, many Republicans will not stand for the party being devoted to Trump and will go elsewhere. If he fails then his base will leave and vote elsewhere. Trump's definition of RINO is anyone in the Republican party who doesn't back him, no matter how insane his agenda is. Not allowing the party to put their differences aside so they can join forces against Democrats will most likely result in the parties loss in more elections, and the defection of members to other parties. Which is more confounding considering Trump was, up until he needed the Republican Party to get on a national election ballot, an outsider who claimed and acted like he was more Democrat than anything else.