Johnson: Trump’s presidency has left the Republican Party scrambling

Grace Johnson, Contributing Columnist

From Abraham Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and beyond, Republican presidents have all brought their own set of ideals, personality and goals into the Oval Office. These leaders abolished slavery with the 13th Amendment, built the Panama Canal and established the economic theory Reaganomics, respectively. 

Though these accomplishments are diverse, there are certain ideals to which the Republican Party—Grand Ole’ Party (GOP)—has remained dedicated. From Reagan’s fiscal conservatism to Hoover’s rugged individualism, the Republican Party’s platform has focused on small government, tradition and the rule of law.

However, the most recent Republican administration, led by business tycoon Donald J. Trump, not only diverged from traditional Republican ideals, it has defaced and disgraced the office of the presidency to a staggering degree. These actions culminated in the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters—at the behest of Trump’s tweets, speech and questions about the legitimacy of the election—who wished to undermine the very foundations of our democracy. 

How will the future of the GOP be affected by such a horrific event, and, further, the problems that have plagued the country for the past four years as a whole? 

The lawmakers, and the general public, were left reeling by the attempted insurrection. 

A number of Republican legislators denounced their support for President Trump—some going so far as to denounce the party altogether, including Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI), who became an Independent. In fact, high profile Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins have both openly supported the impeachment and removal of Trump. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of Trump’s closest allies throughout his presidency, has quietly distanced himself from the former president. 

Other Republicans, though, remain wedded to Trump: Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and Rep. Brian Babin, along with numerous others, have remained swayed by Trump’s actions and words.

As President Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The very foundation of the GOP is now rocky; there is a very clear divide within the ranks of the party, which begs the question of how it will remain upright. 

I am no expert in party politics, so I turned to a Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Girma Parris, to hear his opinion on the situation. I asked about where he believes the GOP stands now, given the recent insurrection and subsequent impeachment proceedings.

His immediate response: “I think the Republican Party is still Trump’s party. He still has support from a majority of Republican voters.” 

Beyond that, Parris discussed how “traditional Republicans” are apprehensive in light of recent events, but “Trump Republicans” have proved they will continue to support him no matter what, showing again that two factions have developed in the GOP.

Internal polarization will surely weaken the GOP’s ability to pass legislation, as many members of Congress will continue to try and further Trump’s agenda, rather than that of the GOP as a whole. 

Only time will tell whether the Trump presidency has permanently hurt the party, or been a mere stain on its history. Despite the Republican Party’s factionalism, for now, Trump is the expected nominee for the GOP in the 2024 presidential election cycle. Trump, himself, addressed his supporters on President Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day—which he neglected to attend because of his refusal to accept defeat—said, ““Goodbye. We love you. We will be back in some form.” 

Clearly, Trump has no desire to leave the political realm.

If he runs again, factionalism will splinter the party even more, potentially enough to create a new party. Will we end up with a three-party system? Will the GOP accept their losses and move on from the past four years of atrocity? Will the party reevaluate their platform entirely? Will Trump disappear from the foreground of American politics? 

Only time—and the will of the American people—will prevail in answering these questions. Hopefully we figure it out pretty soon, though. I think we’re all exhausted from it.