Some Republican senators are weighing in on former President Donald Trump’s prospects for running for office again in 2024 and they seem to believe the impeachment proceedings have all but torpedoed his chances of securing the GOP nomination. As the Democrats do their best to tie Trump’s speech to the U.S. Capitol Riots on Jan. 6, the conservative movement is experiencing an identity crisis that will determine the future direction of the American right.
The GOP senators who are predicting that Trump won’t be able to secure the nomination in 2024 seem to be hoping that the party will go back to some iteration of the pre-Trump era. The Hill reported:
From the viewpoint of some Republican senators, the compelling case presented by House prosecutors carries a silver lining: It means they likely won’t have to worry about Trump running for president again in three years, while at the same time eroding his influence in party politics more generally.
Several Republican senators became irate watching videos of the violence and chaos inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, including footage of police officers being called “pigs” and “traitors” and one officer screaming as he was crushed by rioters battering a police line.
The videos that the Democratic impeachment managers are using include clips of Trump’s speech interspersed with footage of rioters storming the Capitol. Noticeably absent from the videos is Trump urging his followers to “peacefully” make their voices heard. (See: Conservative Leaders Rip Democrats’ Alarming Impeachment Video for Leaving out a Critical Piece of Information Regarding Trump’s Speech)
“It just makes you realize what an asshole Donald Trump is,” a GOP senator told The Hill after watching the footage. He stated that the Democrats might be helping the Republican Party by smearing Trump. “Unwittingly, they are doing us a favor. They’re making Donald Trump disqualified to run for president” even if he is acquitted, the senator said.
Other GOP lawmakers, including those who indicated they will not vote to convict Trump, said it would be a positive thing if the proceedings helps to distance the party from the former president.
“I can’t imagine the emotional reaction, the visceral reaction to what we saw today doesn’t have people thinking, ‘This is awful,’ whatever their view is on whether the president ought to be impeached or convicted,” said a GOP senator. “What would stand out to my colleagues is there was no rescue, there was nothing that came to put an end to it.”
The senator added, “This reminded and confirmed and probably added deeper emotion to the view that the president’s involvement in the party, while it brought new people, it’s very damaging to who we are, what we believe and what we stand for — what we believe we stand for.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK) is the only GOP senator to publicly express the same sentiments as some of her colleagues. “After the American public sees the full story laid out here … I don’t see how Donald Trump could be reelected to the presidency again,” she said on Wednesday.
Another Republican senator said that the arguments the Democrats laid out during the trial demonstrate that it would be difficult for Trump to secure the GOP nomination in 2024. “I think closing the door on that [Trump] chapter is probably positive overall,” the senator asserted.
However, the lawmaker admitted that navigating the Trump issue is “a bit of a dance” because a lot of conservative voters still like the former president.
“We have to be careful as a party to embrace those folks and the big question is, ‘Were they just Trump Republicans and not Republicans?’” the senator observed.
Still, even these GOP lawmakers acknowledged that even if Trump does not run in 2024, he will still retain a position of influence in the party.
Is it possible that these senators are correct in their predictions? Sure. The idea that the Capitol riots, along with the impeachment proceedings could prevent him from securing another GOP nomination is plausible. But the real question that the establishment will have to reckon with is how his legacy will shape the future of the GOP and the conservative movement. Perhaps this is what they are truly concerned about.
Trump does not need to be president to wield a tremendous level of influence on the right. Regardless of what the Romneys and Murkowskis want to believe, he remains a powerhouse, and all indications suggest that he will use his power to push back on an establishment that has sought to reverse the changes he made in the culture of the right.
The bottom line is that the civil war happening on the right is not going to result in a return to the old normal. Instead, it will spawn a new GOP and a new conservative movement. The question is: Will the establishment elite still have a place in this new era?