By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
“Liz, you’re fired,” former President Donald Trump roared to thousands who attended a rally recently in Casper, Wyoming.
He was lambasting U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, one of his most vociferous Republican critics. She was doomed to lose her seat to a Trump-backed challenger in the Wyoming primary Aug. 16 and did.
The Wyoming rally was part devotional, part revival and part Trump adulation. The rash of probes, FBI raids, subpoenas and congressional hearings into his role in inciting the January 6 Capitol insurrection meant absolutely nothing to the Trump throngs.
The Wyoming Trump lovefest and the defeat of Cheney was just one more sign that Trump’s grip on the Republican Party hasn’t loosened one bit. In the rash of primaries in several states this month, Trump endorsed candidates either won their primary jousts or were competitive.
What was even more scary was that the Trump-backed candidates were a motley bunch of near loony white nationalists, Biden election deniers and conspiracy theorists. They are very much an intimate part of the political soul of the GOP going forward.
Many are still mystified about one of the greatest ironies of American politics. That is how a guy that almost no one in the Republican political establishment liked in the beginning now runs the party lock, stock and barrel.
Start with the numbers. The 74 million votes he got in his 2020 presidential loss is the greatest number of votes a losing presidential candidate has ever received in a free election anywhere. In fact, it’s a greater number than any American presidential winner —with the exception of Joe Biden — has ever received.
But it’s how Trump got those staggering numbers that still tell much about why Republican politicians of all stripes remain scared stiff of Trump.
In part it’s rage and rebellion against the perceived wheeling and dealing corporate beltway Democrats and Republicans. In another, it’s passionate belief that Trump talks the talk and fights the fight for less educated blue-collar and rural workers, a healthy segment of middle-class suburbia and a not inconsiderable number of Blacks and Hispanics.
In even bigger part, it’s his deep tap into the racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, nativist, know nothing fear and loathing that is a foundational part of American life.
Those remain powerful, undeniable forces that propel American politics. So powerful, that in spite of the irrefutable proof that the 2020 presidential vote and vote process was accurate and untainted, more than half of Republicans two years after the election still doggedly claim the election was stolen from Trump.
They are so enraged that they spin every kind of ridiculous conspiracy theory about the alleged theft and make clear they will never acknowledge the legitimacy of the Biden presidency.
Trump’s vote numbers and the frenzy of his backers are the life support of the GOP. Without them, the GOP is in grave danger of losing one or more of the nearly two dozen Senate seats that it must defend in the 2022 mid-term elections.
Any Republican fall means the Republicans can kiss goodbye any chance they have of taking back the Senate. That would blow to smithereens Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s long game of hectoring, harassing and obstructing every major initiative Biden and the Democrats present in the run up to the 2024 presidential election. He must have the Senate firewall for that.
Much is made that America will no longer be an old white guy run country in 2050, that white male voters have steadily dropped in national elections, and that Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women and young persons will be the new majority voters. But that’s still way off, maybe a long way off.
White males still have outsized voter clout in the crucial heartland states and the South. Trump knows that and talks to them in the giant circus-like exhibitions he holds that pass for campaign rallies on their turf.
He openly brags at his rallies that he will continue to do exactly what got him elected in 2016. That is to continue to play hard on his base’s latent racist, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, pseudo-patriotic sentiment.
The added element in light of the probes, raids on his compound, and the Jan. 6 congressional investigation is to play even harder on the conspiracy to get him theory.
The blunt reality is that Trump was always more than the titular head of the Republican Party. He was the point man for GOP policy and issues and, in a perverse way, the spur to get action on them.
Trump showed that he could give the GOP a big boost in its relentless drive to damp down the Democratic voter turnout by rigging, playing dirty and gerrymandering. The millions that swear by him still are the horror that the Republican Party has become as Trump’s party.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is “The Midterms: Why They Are So Important and So Ignored” (Middle Passage Press). He also is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.