News World US Impeachment or not, Trump’s grip on rank-and-file Republicans is strong and unlikely to slip
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Impeachment or not, Trump’s grip on rank-and-file Republicans is strong and unlikely to slip

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Like a group of students finally standing up to the school bully, a growing number of Republicans are abandoning US President Donald Trump in the wake of the Capitol Hill riots.

But their defection from the president is not the start of a new era for the Republican Party, political analysts say.

For better or worse, Mr Trump’s enormous political influence will endure long after he has exited the White House.

Their warning came after 10 Republicans joined the Democrats in the House of Representatives on Wednesday by voting to impeach Mr Trump for the second time, charging him with “incitement of insurrection”. 

That included:

  1. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois
  2. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming
  3. Rep. John Katko of New York
  4. Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan
  5. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington
  6. Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington
  7. Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan
  8. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio
  9. Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina
  10. Rep. David Valadao of California

Among the group of Republicans fed up with Mr Trump, Liz Cheney was the “real surprise”, said US election analyst and professor at ANU Wesley Widmaier.

“She was the House Minority whip so on her own terms, she’s a really strong Republican pedigree, as well as being the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, who served in the Nixon, Ford and Bush administrations,” he told TND. 

“Only Liz Cheney could move against Trump without any partisan blowback.”

Ms Cheney did not mince her words either, laying the blame for the violent insurrection at US Congress firmly at the feet of Mr Trump.

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” she said in a statement.

“Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President.”

Professor Widmaier said it was likely a greater number of Republicans than those listed also wanted to impeach Mr Trump, but “did not want put their careers on the line”.

“They’re afraid for their own and their family’s safety,” he said.

Text messages obtained by the FBI after last Wednesday’s attempted coup reveal one Trump supporter’s desire to assassinate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

That man was arrested by DC police with a camper van full of weapons, including a Glock hand gun, a pistol, a Tavor X95 assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Where to from here for the Republican Party?

Despite Mr Trump’s declining popularity among the political elite, the fact remains that more than 74 million Americans voted for him in November’s federal election.

That’s nearly triple the size of Australia’s population.

“Say what you like about Donald Trump, but he did marvellous things for political participation,” said Luke Mansillo, a political scientist and PhD candidate at The University of Sydney.

“They’re not going away any time soon. He found votes in places where people had never turned out to vote before.”

And many of those newly minted voters genuinely believe Mr Trump’s baseless claim that the election was “stolen”, he said.

That anger will continue long after President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20, leaving the Republican Party confronting an identity crisis.

“There’s a battle for the soul of the Republican Party,” Professor Widmaier said.

“Some Republicans rode the coattails and supported the Trump view, but on the other hand, he lost everything – the House, the Senate, the presidency.”

With Mr Trump on the way out, who will be best placed to snap up his enormous voter base?

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is a likely “heir of Trump’s legacy”, said Mr Mansillo.

“Cruz has been around long enough. People recognise him,” he said.

“He’s got a very good pedigree in terms of his conservative credentials. The NRA loves him.”

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