Donald Trump maintains control over the Republican Party one year after the violent insurrection on Capitol Hill.
The former president is positioning himself as a powerful force in the primaries that will determine who gets the party's backing for the midterm elections to be held this year.
As an enraged gang of his supporters scaled walls, smashed windows, used flagpoles to beat up police, and stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn a free and fair election, Donald Trump's ex-communication from the Republican Party seemed almost a certainty. . His name would be hopelessly tarnished.
Some of his closest allies, including Fox News Channel hosts like Laura Ingraham, warned that day that Trump was "destroying" his legacy. "All I can say is: Enough is enough," said his friend and confidant, Senator Lindsey Graham. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader who worked closely with Trump to drastically reshape the judiciary, later denounced him as "morally responsible" for the attack.
But a year later, Trump is hardly a leader in exile. Instead, he is the undisputed leader of the Republican Party and one of the leading contenders for the 2024 presidential nomination.
He is positioning himself as a powerful force in the primary campaigns that will determine who gets the party's backing heading into the fall midterm elections when control of Congress, the governor's offices, and state electoral offices are at stake. For now, at least, there is little holding back Trump as he makes unwavering loyalty to his vision of the Republican Party a litmus test for success in the primary, giving ambitious Republicans little incentive to cross it.
"Let's just say I 'm disappointed, " said former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a longtime Republican now on the advisory committee for the Renew America Movement, a group trying to wrest the party from Trump's control.
"His ego was never going to allow him to accept defeat and quietly go into the night," he added. "But what strikes me is how deferential so many of the Republican elected officials have been."
Rather than expressing any regrets for the events of January 6, Trump often seems emboldened and has continued to lie about his defeat in the 2020 election. For example, he often falsely claims that the "real" insurrection was November 3. , the 2020 election date when Democrat Joe Biden won the Electoral College 306-232 and by a margin of 7 million popular votes.
Federal and state election officials and Trump's attorney general have said no credible evidence the election was tainted. The former president's allegations of fraud were also roundly rejected by the courts, including Trump-appointed judges.
Undaunted, Trump is preparing for another White House run in 2024, and polls suggest that, at this point, he would easily walk away with the Republican nomination.
For Trump, the extraordinary result is the product of sheer will and a disinformation campaign that began long before the election, when he insisted that the only way he could lose was if the election was "rigged," and he did not promise to accept. The defeat. The refusal to accept reality has flourished with the surrender of most Republican leaders, who tend to overlook the severity of the insurrection for fear of fracturing a party whose base remains closely aligned with Trump and his effort to minimize the seriousness. Of what happened on January 6.
While five people died during or immediately after the riots, less than half of Republicans recall the attack as violent or highly violent, according to a poll released this week by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs. About 3 in 10 Republicans said the attack was not violent.
The situation has surprised and depressed critics of both political parties who were convinced that the insurrection would force Republicans to abandon the Trump era once and for all. Instead, he became the first president in American history to be indicted twice. The second impeachment trial focused on his role in sparking the insurrection. Still, Trump was acquitted in a Senate trial, a clear indication that he would face little consequence for his actions.
"There was this hope when we were in the safe room that we would go back and the Republicans would see how crazy this was, how fragile our democracy was, what President Trump had done, and that they would give that up and we would all come together," he said. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, describing the events of that day. Instead, he said, "there were people defending the insurgents and defending Trump and continuing the challenge and the Big Lie. "
Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Republican who, along with Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, has become one of the few anti-Trump Republican critics in Congress, had predicted that Trump's control over the party would "disappear." for the summer. But Kinzinger, who recently announced his decision not to run for reelection, blamed Republican House Leader and Trump ally Kevin McCarthy for proving him wrong.
"What I underestimated was the impact one person would have on that, and that's Kevin McCarthy and his visit to Mar-a-Lago," Kinzinger said, referring to a trip McCarthy made to Florida in late January 2020 when the party was on the verge of disorder. With their sights set on retaking the House in 2022, Trump and McCarthy agreed to work together. They posted a photograph showing them smiling side by side.
"Kevin McCarthy isrightfuly, on his own, the reason Donald Trump continues to be a force in the party," Kinzinger said. "That sincere hug, I saw it first-hand in the members, made them not only afraid of facing Trump but in some cases also embrace him with all their hearts."
McCarthy's aides did not respond to a request for comment on Kinzinger's characterization.
Others, however, point to fractures that suggest Trump's power is waning.
Banned from Twitter and denied his other social media megaphones, Trump no longer controls the news cycle as he did in office. He canceled a press conference scheduled for Thursday due to pressure from some Republican allies, who cautioned that such an event was ill-advised.
During last year's high-profile elections, Republicans like Virginia's gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin strategically kept Trump at arm's length. Youngkin's victory created a possible model for candidates running in battlefield states where suburban voters uncomfortable with the former president are a crucial bloc.