Never Trump conservatives have been hoping that the Republican Party will turn against President Donald Trump in big numbers, paving the way for the GOP to return to a more traditional conservatism. But The Bulwark’s executive editor, Jonathan V. Last — himself an anti-Trump conservative — stresses in a December 17 listicle that the Republican Party will continue to embrace Trumpism in the months to come. And he lays out four reasons why most Republicans won’t be turning against the president.
Delving into GOP history, Last asserts that regrettably, Trump now commands the sort of unquestioning loyalty within the GOP that prominent Republicans didn’t have.
“Republicans told President Nixon to resign his office,” Last explains. “Ronald Reagan ran a vigorous primary challenge to President Ford. President George H.W. Bush was seriously challenged in the 1992 primary. President George W. Bush faced Republican revolts over a Supreme Court nomination, Medicare expansion and attempted immigration reform.”
Last writes that if “the laws of normal politics applied to Trump,” Republicans would opt to “cut and run.” But instead, Last writes, Trump “owns the GOP in a way that is unprecedented in the modern era.”
According to Last, one of the four main reasons for Trump’s strength with the GOP is that “the tipping point came early.” Trump’s presidency, he notes, was scandal-ridden from the beginning, but none of those scandals have made him any less popular with his base.
“The casualties of the (2018) midterms were precisely the Republicans who were most likely to rebel against Trump,” Last asserts. “So while the GOP lost the midterms, Trump emerged with a stronger hold on the party.”
The second reason Last gives for Trump’s stranglehold on his party: Trump “primarily uses his political capital against other Republicans.” The conservative journalist explains that although Trump “takes the obligatory shots at Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff,” it is fellow Republicans who suffer politically when he rails against them.
Last’s third reason for Trump’s durability among Republicans: “In the Republican Party, Trump is forever.” Whether Trump is voted out of office in 2020 or wins a second term, Last asserts, he will “continue to tweet and call in to cable news shows. Perhaps he will even attend political rallies, which is the part of the job he seems to enjoy most.
“Trump is not a caretaker of the Republican Party,” Last emphasizes. “He is the owner. Once you realize that Trump is forever, it’s easier to understand individual Republicans’ reluctance to stand against him on impeachment.”
The fourth and final reason Trumpism will continue to thrive, according to Last: Trump “clearly has dynastic aspirations.”
“Early on,” Last observes, “people suspected that Ivanka Trump would one day try to take over for her father. But the last three years have shown that Don Jr. is his logical heir. Where Ivanka thought it smart to work in the White House and enmesh herself in governing, Don. Jr. understood that the real path to power was to go on Fox News and imitate his father. It’s working.”
None of this makes Last happy. The Bulwark was founded in December 2018 by two Never Trump conservatives: Bill Kristol and Charles Sykes. But to deny how firm a grip Trump has on the GOP in 2019, Last laments, is to deny reality.
“The Republican Party is a kingdom, and GOP politicians are mere feudal lords who may only set up their own fiefdoms at the pleasure of the sovereign,” Last laments. “Or, if you’d prefer a less benign metaphor, the Republican Party is now a family-controlled syndicate which will run the business until either a rival gang takes them down or the feds catch up with them.”