But Cheney found the one thing that you can’t do in the Republican Party — attack the former President, Donald Trump. In case anyone had missed it, McCarthy’s move to oust her for voting to impeach Trump is reiterating the fact that the party of Trump and the Republican Party are one and the same. And in that party, there is no room for any dissent.
In other words, Trump remains a powerful and influential figure within the party. His influence as a one-term president is notable. Most of our one-term presidents have been influential in a negative capacity. Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter, for instance, remained powerful figures within their respective parties as leadership models to avoid. For young conservatives, George H.W. Bush’s decision to raise taxes in 1990 served as a model of unacceptable compromise.
The main reason for his standing is that Trump is in perfect sync with the modern Republican Party. Since the 1980s, the party has shifted to the extremes — both in terms of policy and in its partisan tactics. Though considered anti-establishment in 2016, Trump, it turns out, fit the GOP like a glove. Most Republicans didn’t see the 2020 election as a repudiation of Trumpian Republicanism, just more reason to double down. They’re unlikely to be swayed by Cheney’s remarks to Congress that the election is over and “our freedom lasts only if we protect it.”
Trump is in harmony with the party. The party shifted and he met it perfectly. He set up a narrative that helped define him to supporters as a victim rather than a loser. The purpose of the “Big Lie,” the fraudulent claim that the election was stolen from him, was to explain why he is no longer in the White House. Using the conservative media as a platform, Trump’s bogus claim that he really won the election undercuts those in the party who think there was something politically problematic about his tenure.
In a party that won’t cross him, Trump’s power should not be underestimated. He has the potential to remain an extraordinarily influential one-term president and put himself in a strong position to run again.