Many of them went into hiding after the election, still more after the ugliness of Jan. 6. The heartache of Donald Trump’s downfall, coupled with disbelief at the outcome, left the Trump faithful high and dry, dazed and dispirited, unmoored from their political buoy. But five months into the administration of Joe Biden – though this president called it 15 months over the weekend, but hey, who’s counting? – you can feel the engine revving again, and the Trump freight train roaring down the tracks one more time.
It might now be just a highly vocal minority. How many of those who voted for Trump last November would do so again is what they call a known unknown. The Trump base may or may not be broad enough to win another term in the White House. But it is certainly strong and deep enough to brazenly name and shame those Republicans who, in their view, backed down under pressure in the run-up to both the November election and January’s twin contests in the Peach State which completed the Democrats’ clean sweep of the White House and Congress.
The Silencing of the Lambs
In arguably the most potent display of pent-up anger and frustration by Trump loyalists since their man left the White House, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who oversees the state’s voting, were booed so loudly by fellow Republicans at a party gathering over the weekend that their speeches were all but inaudible for a time. You can witness the rude reception for the governor here.
Kemp has been attacked by Trump for refusing to mount a sufficient challenge to the presidential result in his state and support the former president’s wide-ranging efforts to overturn the election outcome. And much like Liz Cheney in Wyoming, an outspoken Trump critic, Kemp has been targeted for a primary challenge in 2022. If you want to know where the hearts of GOP voters are, just listen to the baseline argument of his challenger, Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones: “if it weren’t for Brian Kemp, Donald Trump would still be President of these United States.”
Another White House Charge?
One leading indicator of Trump’s plans for another run at the big prize is that the issue of a running mate has started to arise – presumably based on the implicit assumption Trump will run again. And the 45th president, still doing or saying nothing to discourage talk of him seeking the presidency once more, appears non-committal about placing Mike Pence back on the ticket, telling Fox News: “Mike and I have a good relationship, we continue to have a good [one] but it’s too early to be discussing running mates.”
He also sounded like the Trump of old in issuing another of his typically bold, Trumpian declarations over the weekend, calling for pandemic reparations from China – a demand presumably animated by the media’s sudden discovery that Trump’s suggestion about COVID-19 emanating from a Chinese lab may have been on target after all. But of course, the Fourth Estate has twisted itself into pretzels, ignoring Trump’s prescience on yet another issue in which he was laughed off, until he turned out to be right.
For Whom Does the Bell Toll?
As the former president not-so-slowly but surely re-enters the political arena, one suspects that the vocal demonstration by Trumpists in the increasingly competitive state of Georgia likely sent chills up and down the spines of those disenfranchised Never-Trump/Lincoln Project Republicans dreaming of a renaissance of their Bush-era neoconservative utopia. Their movement, if it can be called that, has been based on the singular proposition that the 45th president is evil and must be vanquished at any cost. But with Trump gone, it has been evacuated of its extraordinarily narrow purpose or meaning – except to warn of a comeback.
These Liz Cheney acolytes are finding out what we have known all along: with no Trump to kick around, their service as useful idiots for the left is no longer required, and they are left homeless.
Brian Kemp is no outspoken, Cheney-style Never-Trumper. But the MAGA bar has been set at such great heights for GOP candidates that moderate incumbents like the Georgia governor must figure out quickly how to toe the line and fend off America First challengers. The re-emergence of the former president, and even more so the display by Trump supporters over the weekend, suggests that these meandering Republicans are not yet close to finding the answer.
Read more from Tim Donner.