The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion It’s still Donald Trump’s party

President Trump at the White House on June 18. (Alex Brandon/AP)
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“If He Loses, Trump Will Concede Gracefully” went the headline on Mick Mulvaney’s Nov. 7 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. “I have every expectation,” wrote the former acting chief of staff, “that Mr. Trump will be, act and speak like a great president should.” Flash forward to Sunday, and Mulvaney was explaining on “Fox News Sunday” and NBC’s “Meet the Press” why he was wrong. “I never thought I’d see that,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd. But Mulvaney had another prediction: Asked whether Trump should be “ostracized” from the GOP, Mulvaney said, “I think it’s going to happen anyway. … The ideas of the Republican Party are bigger than one man.”

Sadly for Mulvaney, the response from the GOP in the past few days suggests that this forecast will also end up on the trash heap. This is still Donald Trump’s party.

Certainly a mainstream news consumer could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. On most outlets Sunday, the president’s supporters were few and far between. On ABC’s “This Week,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) reiterated his demand that the president resign, while Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) made the same demand on CNN But looking at the GOP as a whole, those two are the exception. The norm was better represented by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he “wasn’t interested then or now in spending a lot of time on things that can’t happen … just like the impeachment of the president.”

Just two Republican senators have explicitly called for the president’s removal — Toomey, who is retiring at the end of his term, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who has relied on a chunk of Democratic crossover support ever since her 2010 reelection, when she lost the GOP primary and had to win as an independent write-in candidate. Others, such as Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Ben Sasse (Neb.), have criticized the president, yes, but they’ve also sidestepped offering any solutions, with Collins’s office declining to answer about impeachment and Sasse only saying he would “consider” it. Most Republican senators have either opted for silence or discouraged impeachment while complaining about losing book deals (Josh Hawley) or the president being kicked off social media platforms (Marco Rubio). As for the House, even after the riots, 147 Republican congressmen still voted to object to the electoral college results, backing Trump’s reckless conspiracy-mongering that led to Wednesday’s bloodshed.

More telling than the views of Republican lawmakers, though, are those of Republican voters. As Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report pointed out, the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll has consistently found that more Republicans identify as a supporter of Trump than of the party. In a Hill-HarrisX poll, 64 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s handling of Wednesday’s violence. A PBS-Marist poll found similar numbers: Even in a sample in which only 18 percent of Republicans approved of the riots (other polls have put the number as high as 45 percent), more than two-thirds of GOP voters felt Trump deserved little or no blame for the riots.

Even more importantly, the PBS-Marist poll found 72 percent of Republicans don’t believe the electoral college results. The “stolen election” myth is central to Trump’s hold over his fellow Republicans — it provides both a motivation for a possible 2024 run and a shield against the reality that Trump has lost Republicans the White House and both houses of Congress. So long as nearly three-quarters of the party’s voters believe it, the GOP is his party.

Trump’s enduring grip on the GOP should not surprise anyone. Just as we’ve now had four years of Trump showing us exactly who he is, we’ve had four years of the Republican Party doing the same. With each scandal and disaster — the racist and sexist comments, the Democrats’ recapture of the House, the withholding of Ukraine aid, the incompetent pandemic response — some commentators predicted that now, finally, Republicans would abandon the president. They were wrong every time. Never Trump conservatives raised millions on the promise that more Republicans would cross party lines to vote for Joe Biden. Instead, Trump increased his vote share among Republicans.

Some day the fever will break. If nothing else, Trump is no spring chicken, and there’s no obvious successor to him. But for now, one of the country’s two parties remains in the grips of a personality cult determined to shield itself from reality. And the rest of us get to suffer for it.

The U.S. is more politically polarized than ever. The Post’s Kate Woodsome asks experts what drives political sectarianism — and what we can do about it. (Video: The Washington Post)

Read more:

David Kendall: There’s no time to impeach Trump. Censure him instead.

Laurence H. Tribe and Joshua Matz: Yes, Congress should impeach Trump before he leaves office

E.J. Dionne: In the Capitol nightmare, democracy prevailed

Cori Bush: This is the America that Black people know

Fred Hiatt: Trump’s and Hawley’s free-speech rights are perfectly intact. But the senator has half a point.

Jennifer Rubin: For some Republicans, it’s time to head for the exits