In Cleveland County, Okla., The local Republican Party leader openly wondered “why violence is unacceptable” just hours before a mob stormed the US Capitol last week. “What the hell do you think the American Revolution was?” he posted on facebook. “A batch of damn patty cakes?”
Two days later, the Republican chairman of Nye County, Nevada, posted a letter filled with conspiracy theory on the local committee’s website accusing Vice President Mike Pence of treason and describing the riots as a “staged incident accused of Trump supporters.”
And this week in Virginia, Amanda Chase, a two-time Republican senator running for governor, claimed that President Trump could be sworn in to a second term on Jan. 20, and that Republicans who blocked this “alternative plan” would be punished Supporters of the President.
“You have Mitch McConnell up there selling the Republican Party,” Ms. Chase said spoke at the protest in Washington last week, said in an interview. “The uprising is actually the deep state in which the politicians work against the people to overthrow our government.”
As Mr. Trump prepares to leave the White House and face a second impeachment trial in the Senate, his ideas continue to hold an attraction in Republican circles across the country. The falsehoods, white nationalism, and baseless conspiracy theories it has been promoting for four years have settled at the party’s grassroots level and are welcomed by activists, local leaders, and elected officials, even if a handful of Republicans in Congress with the President in the party break last hour.
Interviews with more than 40 Republican state and local leaders conducted after the Capitol siege reveal that one wing of the party maintains an almost religious devotion to the president, and that those supporters hold him responsible for the mob violence last week . The opposition of some Republicans to him has only increased their support for him.
And while some Republican leaders and strategists seek to reject these loyalists as a fringe element of their party, many of them play influential roles at the state and local levels. Not only are these local officials the links between voters and Federal Republicans, but they also serve as the next generation of high-ranking elected officials for the party and would bring a surrender to Trumpism if they were to advance to Washington.
The president’s continued support is likely to maintain Mr Trump’s influence long after he has left office. This could hamper the party’s ability to unify and reshape its agenda to win back moderate suburban voters who play a crucial role in winning battlefield states and presidential elections.
At the same time, resignation from the president could cost the party its supporters – millions of new working class voters who have helped Mr Trump get more votes than any other Republican presidential candidate in history.
“Retaining Trump voters is priority # 1,” said Harmeet Dhillon, an R.N.C. Member from California. “There is no way to do this with rapid change going in a different direction. Voters expect continuity from the party and stay the course. “
A Axios-Ipsos survey The report, released on Thursday, showed that a majority of Republicans support the president’s recent behavior, saying he should be the Republican candidate in 2024.
Some members of the Trump wing are already facing primary challenges for Republicans who are considered insufficiently loyal to the president and fierce opposition to any Republican who works with the new Biden administration. With Mr Trump banned from prominent social media platforms, they are diving into right-wing media and waiting for new conservative social media platforms, many of which are said to be set up.
“The party is definitely with Trump,” said Debbie Dooley, a conservative activist in Georgia. “I see anger, but it’s nuanced. There are people who are more angry with these Republicans who have turned their backs on Trump than they are with Democrats.”
That became apparent shortly after 10 Republicans joined forces with Democrats in support of impeachment on Wednesday. Within hours of the vote, South Carolina Republican Party leader Drew McKissick issued a statement attacking Republican Tom Rice, a Republican from his state who had supported the impeachment.
“We disagree with this deception at all and to say that I am deeply disappointed in Congressman Tom Rice would be an understatement,” McKissick said.
Several House Republicans also called on Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, a high-profile impeachment vote, to step down from her leadership position at the Congress.
Florida State representative Anthony Sabatini described Ms. Cheney and other Republicans who voted for impeachment as “artifacts.”
“She’s like a fossil,” he said of Ms. Cheney. “The party is completely reorganized. Mitt Romney wouldn’t win in an elementary school today. He would not be able to be elected dog catcher today. “
For years, opponents of Mr. Trump argued that he would lose the party after a devastating event – such as riots or violence that would shock the nation. Last week’s violation of the Capitol appears to have presented an opportunity for Republicans who want the party to focus on Mr Trump’s politics and forego the polarizing language and divisive measures that marked his four-year term.
“In this world, I think there is a lot of room for the Republican Party,” said Juliana Bergeron, an R.N.C. Member from New Hampshire. “I’m not sure there is room for Donald Trump’s Republican Party.”
But for many base officials, the Capitol episode was not the turning point some Washington Republicans had assumed.
“No, Trump is not to blame, but the Democrats certainly, along with any Republicans who follow with them,” said Billy Long, Bayfield County, Wisconsin’s Republican Party leader, who was planning to break away from the GOP for one local Trump-centered third party launch. “The Trump movement is not over yet. As Trump himself said, we are just getting started. “
Republican voters, too, have largely made a sharp distinction between the president and those who stormed the Capitol. 80 percent say they do not blame Mr. Trump for the unrest, and 73 percent say he protects democracyAccording to a poll released by Quinnipiac University this week.
Even in blue states, Republican leaders are still grappling with Mr. Trump’s complaint policy. In the New Jersey State Senate, Republicans were divided over a resolution convicting Mr Trump of inciting the crowd that attacked the Capitol. The majority of Republicans chose to abstain, and many used their time on the ground to try to turn the debate on the summer protests against racial injustice and faced reprimand by the Senate President for deviating from the subject.
Even if Mr Trump disappears from political life and loses his social media megaphone and bullying pulpit, his supporters say his message is being carried by a party that has been redesigned in its image and has a strong structural at all levels Provides support.
Since Mr Trump’s victory in 2016, 91 of the 168 positions on the Republican National Committee have been flipped, with virtually all of the newcomers being elected from Trump-leaning States parties.
The president received high praise at a national party conference two days after the siege and was greeted with applause when he convened a breakfast meeting.
Lines of battle are already being drawn between the Trump wing and those looking to overtake the president.
Efforts are being made in several states, with the assistance of Mr. Trump, to present incumbent Republicans with major challenges. In Georgia, major potential candidates are turning to conservative activists to challenge the Republican governor, lieutenant governor and foreign minister. Other destinations could include Governor Mike DeWine from Ohio and Senators Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and John Thune from South Dakota.
“The elections were lopsided and Republicans who could have done something did very little,” said Dave Wesener, leader of the Republican Party in Crawford County, Wisconsin. “Those Republicans who didn’t support me are what I lovingly call RINOs.” All RINOs should be given priority by conservatives. “
Mr Wesener plans to resign from his role in the local Republican Party next month to show his disappointment that the party did not fight harder to scrap the election results. He also plans to give up his Green Bay Packers season tickets to protest the team’s Painting of slogans of racial justice on his home field.
In Virginia, Ms. Chase is likely to face a multi-candidate Republican governor field to be decided at a rally of party activists this summer. Although state G.O.P. Officer chose to avoid elementary school in hopes of denying Ms. Chase her nomination At one convention, the party’s activist base is filled with Mr. Trump’s die-hard supporters.
“I was called Trump in heels,” said Ms. Chase. “The Virginia regular base who are not elite of the Republican establishment supports me.”
Last week’s siege of the Capitol has drawn an even brighter line between the party. State legislators from more than a dozen states participated in the protest, with at least one prosecuted for violating the Capitol as part of the uprising. Meshawn Maddock, an activist ready to become the co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, helped organize busloads of supporters from her state to travel to the Capitol. In the days following the violence, she joined a conservative online group in which some participants openly discussed civil war and martial law.
Many continue to defend their role in the event.
“Those who rule Congress today look with contempt on much of the country. Trump never did that, ”said Alaskan State Representative David Eastman, who attended the protest. “I, along with nearly a million other Americans, were happy to go to DC to hear the President speak and thank him for his four-year tenure. Those in today’s ruling class will never really understand why. “
Nick Corasaniti contributed to the coverage.