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After Trump, what’s next for the Republican party?

And so, the Trump presidency came to an end, with a flurry of  pardons and a trip to Palm Beach, Florida. 

But while he is no longer a looming presence in Washington DC, Mr Trump and trumpism are likely to remain central to the Republican party for years to come. 

So, what’s next for the GOP?

The Republican party Mr Trump leaves behind is very different from the one he inherited in 2016. 

Republicans now broadly fall into one of three camps: anti-trumpers, opportunity-takers, and true believers. 

Anti-Trumpers include former presidential candidate Senator Mitt Romney and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. 

They have been staunch critics of Trump and represent more traditional republicans. 

Mr Romney was one of few senior republicans to explicitly blame Mr Trump for the Capitol Riot in early January, saying:

 “What happened here was an insurrection incited by the President of the United States.“

In terms of influence and numbers within the party, however, anti-Trumpers are increasingly marginalised. 

Opportunity-takers include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who worked with Trump to cut taxes and appoint conservative judges. 

For them, Trump was a means to an end, and they could overlook his more distasteful side as long as he delivered the goods. 

The last camp, and the largest, are the true believers, who are personally committed to Trump and trumpism. 

They include a vast swathe of congressional republicans, Republican state legislators, and movement conservatives. 

Currently their ire is directed toward those republicans they perceive as being insufficiently loyal to Mr Trump.

In their sights is Brad Raffensperger, the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia who refused to overturn his state’s vote for President Biden.

Charlie Kirk, President of the onservative students’ organisation Turning Point USA, tweeted in early January: 

“Georgia’s Brad Raffensburger [sic] is a total disgrace and he should resign immediately in shame“. 

With one poll suggesting that 52 % of republicans believe Trump won the election, it would appear that the rank and file of the party are firmly in the true believer category. 

Indeed, several elected republicans publicly profess support for the QAnon conspiracy, which baselessly claims that Trump was secretly fighting a war against Satanist paedophiles in the US government.

However, while trumpism may be here to stay, the future of Mr Trump himself is unclear. 

Though he has not ruled out running again in 2024, he reportedly has reservations, and in any case may not be allowed to run for public office again if the Senate votes to convict him after his second impeachment. 

Future presidential contenders may include former Vice President Mike Pence, Fox News talk host Tucker Carlson, and even the former President’s son, Donald Trump Junior.  

Whoever succeeds Mr Trump will have to address the increasingly narrow support base of the party. 

Republicans have won the popular vote in just one presidential election since the 1980s. 

In 2020, Mr Trump was backed by just eight percent of Black voters, and lost among suburban voters, who traditionally vote Republican, by 10 points. 

But with the true believers commanding such influence among both the party’s supporters and its elected representatives, trumpism’s hold over the GOP looks set to continue. 

Image: creativecommons.org