In recent days, we got a glimpse of what the Republican Party may look like after the November election. It’s super messy.
To his credit, President Trump did what no other American president has ever done before: the first time he ever ran for office, he not only won, but entirely remade a major political party to essentially follow not even a particular strand of ideology, but to follow a leader.
But along with that comes the question: what happens to the Republican Party once Trump is gone, whether he wins or loses in November?
In the past week, there has been a number of important developments to show just how chaotic it has become inside of the GOP.
Where do we even start?
There was the private meeting Senate Republicans held Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows hoping settle some obvious disagreements about what Republicans should push for in another COVID related financial assistance package.
The additional $600 in unemployment benefits that Americans have been receiving since the spring is due to expire next week. Democrats want to extend it until the end of the year. Republicans — from the White House to the House and Senate — are not on the same page.
In the Senate meeting, two Republicans potentially eyeing a run for president in 2024, were at direct odds on what the most conservative thing to do was in this moment. According to the Washington Post, Senator Ted Cruz stood up and asked, “What in the hell are we doing?” in agreeing to a package that would be at least another trillion in spending. Meanwhile, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas (who is headed to New Hampshire this month) told his colleagues that the Senate should agree to something in order to help our more vulnerable Republicans up for reelection this year. After all, Cotton, contended, if Republicans don’t keep the Senate majority then Democrats will spend even more.
But that was on Tuesday. On Wednesday, there was talk of a side deal from other Republican Senators like Lamar Alexander and Richard Shelby to offer additional unemployment assistance through the year, but at a lower rate.
Here’s where we are at: the White House hoped to secure a Republican proposal last weekend, but now the thinking from Capitol Hill is that a Senate plan would come Thursday at the earliest, according to the Post.
But at least the discussion on the Senate wasn’t personal. It totally was in the House.
It’s hard to get more Republican than someone with the last name Cheney. However, her strong support for Dr. Anthony Fauci on the coronavirus has made her a target. She was called out by seven Republican members including Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida for not being sufficiently in Trump’s corner, according to CNN. Why? She backs the nation’s top infectious disease expert amidst a global pandemic and has departed from Trump recently on foreign policy.
Some called on her to resign from her leadership position in the House, which she has refused to do. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted about Cheney that “we don’t need another Mitt Romney,” an apparent reference to Romney’s vote to remove Trump from office during the Senate impeachment trial. Senator Rand Paul also weighed in on the House business by saying Cheney should resign from her position as House Republican Conference Chair.
But Cheney isn’t resigning. Instead, she showed up on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning to essentially confirm the reporting of the meeting and say, “You may see the Republicans have discussions and debates, we believe in free speech, but we are all unified in ensuring that come November Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are not running this country.”
Meanwhile, Republican governors have begun to largely ignore the party line coming out of Washington. This has long been true in more liberal places like Maryland and Massachusetts that have Republican governors, and is now also true in more conservative areas like Mississippi and Texas, where Republican governors are moving to close down the economy and ask for masks to be worn, no matter how Trump feels about it. (Though the president is having an apparent change of heart on masks of late.)
Historically, there is a time when a president begins to see party members move away from them. However, that usually comes after the re-election, not before.
There will be a post-Trump Republican Party, whether that begins in November or after four more years. What shape that party takes will be one of the biggest changes in a major political party in at least a generation. Until now, Trump has been able to demand loyalty, but amidst a deadly pandemic, for some in the GOP, loyalty has its limits.