Salvo 05.26.2023 4 minutes

Why Won’t Republicans Move On From Trump?

Former President Trump Holds Rally In Manchester, New Hampshire

The former president retains a deep, intuitive bond with the national base.

What some mainstream conservatives and pundits aren’t considering, given our bleak 2024 electoral landscape (unresolved DNC-sponsored mass mail-in voting; an open border with millions of people streaming across it; an administrative state and media complex actively colluding and working against the people) is that Trump’s era was, and probably is, the last time flyover country will ever see executive representation in Washington again.

Looking ahead to 2024, we should ask, Have the voters in that overlooked region—so breezily dismissed time and time again—changed in any marked way? Are they ready to move on? If anything, they’ve become even more alienated and disgusted by the Washington establishment than they were in 2016. In their eyes, there’s no better way to show disdain for the ruling elite than casting their lot with Trump. That was their motivation eight years ago, and that’s the motivation now. Diehard support for the former president, in many cases, is symbolic. It’s an act of defiance. It’s the biggest middle finger Forgotten Americans can give to a system they believe has failed them. And maybe that symbolism is all they feel they have left.

Could any other national leader show up to a place like East Palestine, Ohio and be met with a groundswell of adoration? These Ohioans—who have been targeted for destruction by globalist politicians on both sides of the aisle for decades—see that Trump is not a politician in the traditional sense. He is as comfortable golfing at Mar-a-Lago as he is walking through beaten down and deserted communities in the Midwest. He listens to locals and makes them feel heard. He’s someone who lived the American dream and wants to help make their home a place where the American dream becomes achievable again. Trump’s unique way of connecting to these individuals is unrivaled.

Despite his background as a real estate developer and TV star, Trump has a gut-level understanding of the people and places that were sacrificed on the altar of progress. But progress for whom? For the institutional GOP, economic progress; for the institutional DNC, cultural progress. Trump, more than any other Republican, speaks to this American carnage. And, because he recognizes it across party lines, he’s able to channel frustration better than any other Republican or Democrat today.

Against the presumptions of the elite media, most loyal Republican voters do not view claims of election fraud as tantamount to treason. They take it for granted that Trump had the election stolen from him, and they expect the Democrats to do it again. They expect Democrats to pull out all the stops. To lie, to cheat, to do whatever it takes.

The base is also a lot more fired up and energetic than their elected representatives, which is why those voters see Trump, rather than being constrained by himself, as being constrained by the modern political order. The Republican base has watched as Democrats rip up the Constitution, stomp on it, then light it on fire while they laugh at elected Republicans who don’t dare get in their way because of a deference to proceduralism.

Some even go so far as to suggest that January 6 was a net positive. No, not overdramatized, not a disorganized protest gone awry—a net good. It was a reminder that their concerns won’t be ignored.

Trump is a wrecking ball. Trump destroyed multiple Republican political dynasties, shattered GOP neocon ideology, and tossed the old guard to the wind. The Bushes, the Cheneys, the Romneys, and the McCains don’t even hide the fact they are now de facto Democrats. From the perspective of the traditional GOP, Trump’s real crime was pulling the curtains back on the uniparty. What’s more important, exposing and humiliating the regime or trying to improve it from within? That remains to be seen. Trump’s supporters, however, seem to agree with the former.

So what’s preventing the Deep State from “fortifying” another election or spying on the next Republican president? Or hampering a GOP administration with dubious investigations and endless fake scandals? Or impeaching them for no reason? Or deplatforming them from social media? Or removing their voice from the public square? Or raiding their home? Would other candidates still be in the race if they were facing jail time and an unprecedented multi-state effort to weaponize the justice system and lock them up on bogus charges to prevent them from running? With the full weight of the Leviathan against him, Trump remains in the battle.

After 2016, the regime struck back. Exposed for what they are, the Left, along with their partners on the status quo Right, will do anything, to anyone, for any reason, if they feel their political project is in jeopardy. This corrupt establishment won’t leave Trump alone and continues to throw the book at January 6 political prisoners or anyone they deem a threat to their power. If the regime can’t “move on” from Trump, why should Trump’s voters be expected to move on?

For every one of his faults, Trump was always Forgotten America’s champion. And for the time being, it doesn’t look like that will change. As his favorite saying goes, “In reality, they’re not after me. They’re after you.” This continues to be a popular meme catchphrase in conservative circles, but it rings true. Slick ads, fundraising records, and consultant-speak won’t change the way the base feels about President Trump. Politics-as-usual hasn’t worked against him since he came down the escalator in 2015. And it won’t work now. Whether or not he can prevail in a national election remains a question, but so far as his party is concerned, the people chose him before, and the people are likely to choose him again.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

Suggested reading

to the newsletter