Voices: Republicans are finally turning against Trump. But will it last?

Voices: Republicans are finally turning against Trump. But will it last?

Brace for impact. On Thursday evening, former president Donald Trump’s office confirmed the details of his announcement next week at Mar-a-Lago, where he will apparently announce he is running for president a third time. But almost immediately afterwards, Trump himself sidelined the news by throwing the political equivalent of a Molotov cocktail at the entire conservative political establishment, specifically targeting his likely rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

This he did as right-wing media outlets began to blame him for Republicans’ poor performance on Tuesday. As The New York Times reported, the media owned by Rupert Murdoch has gone specifically hard against him, with the New York Post excoriating him for his failures on a front page depicting him as “Trumpty Dumpty”.

Similarly, Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House for Trump’s first two years in office, told an ABC affiliate that “Trump’s kind of a drag on our ticket” and “gives us problems politically” – while noting that the GOP lost the House, the Senate and the White House during Trump’s first midterm disaster in 2018.

From Bo Hines in North Carolina’s 13th district to Tim Michels in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race to Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, plenty of Trump-backed candidates won their primaries because he endorsed them, only to go on and lose in a wider election this week. Even we called him one of the biggest losers once the polls closed.

Of course, it’s very convenient for Ryan to distance himself from Trump after the former golden boy of the GOP is out of politics. But after the 2016 Access Hollywood tape revelation, the then-speaker took a more ruthlessly pragmatic approach, telling members to “do what’s best for you in your district” as his conference confronted a five-alarm fire.

Of course, Trump won anyway, leaving Ryan to spend the better part of two years pretending to reporters that he hadn’t read the president’s latest tweet while working hard to successfully pass a massive tax cut.

At last, he and others in the establishment are going further than they ever dared when Trump was their candidate and their president. But given everything that Trump has done over the years – from calling a war hero like John McCain “a loser” to saying Mexicans crossing the border were drug dealers and rapists to literally inciting a riot that threatened many Republicans’ lives – one might wonder: Why now?

The truth is that this is the first time many Republicans have actually paid a price for being attached to Trump’s actions. In 2016, Republicans at first thought he was radioactive and didn’t know if embracing him would hurt them, but they ultimately found out he had enough voters on board to win.

In 2018, Trump’s general unpopularity – specifically with female voters – and his failed attempts to repeal Obamacare cost Republicans the House of Representatives. But the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the allegations of sexual misconduct against his replacement Brett Kavanaugh fueled enough Republican anger for the GOP to flip four Senate seats, making the “Trump effect” that year a wash.

And even as Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, Republicans nonetheless flipped many Democratic-held seats in the House and held onto ostensibly vulnerable Senate seats in North Carolina, Iowa and Maine. (However, Trump ultimately helped blow their chances of holding Georgia’s two Senate seats in a January runoff.)

That means the 2022 midterms — where they failed to overwhelmingly defeat the Democrats in the House (though they might still net a slim majority) and their hopes of winning the Senate look imperiled by the direction of travel in still-counting Nevada and Arizona — is the year when the GOP has finally reaped the Trump harvest.

Yet as far as the former president himself is concerned, any acknowledgement of this reeks of ingratitude. His particular brand brought new voters into the fold – notably a slice of non-college-educated voters of color – who wouldn’t have otherwise voted for the GOP, after all.

In one of his Truth Social screeds last night, Trump correctly noted that in 2015, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board “loved Low Energy Jeb Bush, and a succession of other people as they rapidly disappeared from sight, finally falling in line with me after I easily knocked them out, one by one”. In the same year, he picked what looked like a losing fight with then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly, one that ultimately saw the outlet acquiesce and become his main platform (aside from Twitter).

President Joe Biden has said for years that the “fever” of Trumpism that grips the GOP will inevitably break, and the splash of cold water they received on Tuesday could help turn down the heat. But Trump is sure to find ways to make them sweat until they come crawling back.