Is a GOP Split Inevitable or Is Trump’s Grip on the Party Too Strong?

by Akina
Image: arizonaguardian / Flickr

It is indisputable that the future of the Republican Party is uncertain after the end of Donald Trump’s presidency on the 20th of January this year. The exit of the former president left the Republican Party at a crossroads on whether Republicans should stay committed to Trump, or withdraw due to how far he has strayed from standard conservatism. A small fraction intends to distance themselves from Trump: committees such as The Lincoln Project, a Republican led group that started in 2019 to prevent the re-election of Trump, demonstrated such attitudes even before the 2020 election. Some Republican representatives such as Adam Kinzinger have also been very vocal regarding their detachment from Trump, this includes his strong stance on removing Trump from office after the January 6th riot. However, that being said, Republicans who have rebelled away from Trump are in the minority. It is clear that the majority have no intention of splitting Trump and his ideas from the party, which insinuates that his rhetoric continues to have a significant influence on the Republican party going forward.  

One core factor of the retention of the GOP stems from the voter base. Republican voters throughout the US are becoming more conservative. Studies conducted by Pew Research Center estimate that 62% of Republicans with high political engagement report being afraid of the ideals of the Democrat Party. Furthermore, as of late January 2021, as many as 20% of Americans say that the attack in Washington in January was, in their view, “completely justified.” During the midterms held in 2018, the biggest losses for Republican members came among their most centrist or moderate members. With this in mind, it is clear that the views held by current voters are moving towards more far-right values, and an authoritarian leader such as Trump allows these views to survive and thrive. Trump shifted the direction of the party before and during his presidency, and therefore, it is not hard to believe that after Trump’s presidency, his views are still imprinted within the party and its voters. 

Nonetheless, it is important to note that some members of the GOP view Trump as a strain and an anomaly from the party’s belief system as a whole. This is seen in representatives such as the aforementioned Adam Kinzinger, who has previously been outspoken about the need to detach the Republican Party from Trump. However, these types of statements by Republicans are few and far between, considering only seven out of 50 Republicans voted to convict the former president during the impeachment trials regarding the incitement of violence and insurrection at the capitol. Such evidence solidifies the current Republican’s vigorous defence of Trump’s actions. Furthermore, it is also unreasonable to believe that the majority of Republicans back Trump due to his reasoning or that they truly believe his ideals. It is believable to assume some may be basing their loyalty on their supposed success in the future of the GOP.  

Overall, it is apparent that some in the party are unsatisfied with the direction they are headed for. However, the amount of dissatisfaction is simply not enough to cause a large ideological split, as those opposing Trump do not have a majority. Therefore, the division is rather insignificant considering how far moderate Republicans have moved over the last four years towards Trump’s more far-right populist attitudes. Trump’s continued involvement in the Republican party ties him closely to its future. This incentive loyalty from his former administration and excludes the minority who rebel against his beliefs, thereby limiting the chances of an ideological split.

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