by Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Weeks after Trump decisively lost the election to Biden not one top Republican official appeared on a national Sunday TV talk show to discuss the election. Only a handful of GOP Senate outliers, such as Mitt Romney, dared to say that Biden won the election, and that the Senate and country should get on with its business. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the official GOP capper in denial when he fulsomely backed Trump’s “100 percent right” to push hard his colossal bogus stolen election pap.
How to explain one of the greatest ironies of American politics? That is, how Trump, a guy that almost no one in the GOP political establishment likes, owns, and runs that establishment lock, stock, and barrel. Start with the numbers. Trump’s 73 million votes is the greatest number of votes a losing presidential candidate has gotten in a free election anywhere, ever. In fact, it’s a greater number than any American presidential winner has ever gotten. But it’s how Trump got those staggering numbers that tell much about why GOP politicians of all stripes are scared stiff of Trump.
In part it’s rage and rebellion against the perceived wheel 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 and rural collar 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 of the racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, nativist, know nothing fear and loathing that is a foundational part of American life.
These are 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 go further and 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’ll 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 those voters the GOP is in grave danger of losing two Senate seats in the Georgia run-off January 5. Without them, the GOP is in graver danger of losing one or more of the nearly two dozen Senate seats that it must defend in the 2022 mid-term elections. Any GOP fall off the cliff here means kiss control of the Senate good-bye. This would blow to smithereens McConnell’s long game of hectoring, harassing, and obstructing any and every major initiative of Biden and the Democrats. 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 a way off, maybe a long way off. White males still have outsized voter clout in the crucial Heartland states and the South.
Trump knew that and talked to noone else but them in the giant circus like exhibitions he held that passed for campaign rallies on their vote turf. He openly bragged at his 2020 campaign rallies that he’d do exactly what got him elected in 2016. That was to continue to play hard on his base’s latent racist, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, pseudo- patriotic sentiment.
This was his ace card to further tighten his paralyzing grip on the GOP mainstream leadership. It dutifully canceled primaries, blunted any incipient challenge from a few maverick Republicans who talked about taking Trump on. Most of all the GOP maintained its stone silence on all of Trump’s lies, vulgarities, and antics.
The great mystery to a lot of Americans has always been why the GOP would prostitute itself to a guy who by their own professed party principles and practices wouldn’t even rate backing for dog catcher. The reason is simple. Trump bullied, cajoled, intimidated, GOP leaders into believing that defying him spells doom for the candidate, incumbents in their reelection bids. This is the voter loyalty that buys a lot of support from the GOP establishment even as they flailed him or shaked their head in disgust at his toxic presidency.
The blunt reality is that Trump was always more than the titular head of the GOP. 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.
Trump’s rock-solid loyalist base is proof, then, that the only numbers that ever count on Election Day are the numbers that show up at the polls. Trump showed that he has those numbers, and can get them out, even in defeat. That’s why the GOP is and will remain Trump’s GOP.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is COVID Politics: Trump’s Deadly Game (Amazon) He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One.