With Trump gone, his supporters are trying to bounce back.
The GOP is at a crossroads; after the last election, it has suddenly lost all levers of power, and is now trying to determine its own future. To what extent it will adhere to Donald Trump’s political stances? How can it undermine Joe Biden’s popularity? And finally, how much attention should be drawn to the ongoing cultural wars in the country?
“Starting today, I no longer accept money from any corporate PAC. I urge my GOP colleagues at all levels to do the same. For too long, woke CEOs have been fair-weather friends to the Republican Party: They like us until the left’s digital pitchforks come out. Then they run away…. Enough is enough. Corporations that flagrantly misrepresent efforts to protect our elections need to be called out, singled out and cut off,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. In fact, against the backdrop of an ongoing conflict within the party and uncertainty as to its further course of actions, he announced an important political step and position.
The actual political situation has caused discontent within the party. An April Gallup poll found that Biden’s approval rating is 57% as he approaches his 100th day in office, which is 16% more than Trump’s approval rating during this period. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, the COVID-19 relief bill, which is aimed at reigniting U.S. economic growth, is the most important achievement made by Biden and other Democrats so far. As of right now, lawmakers are discussing a record-breaking $1.9 trillion bill, to which Biden devoted a significant part of his speech in Congress; considering that Republicans didn’t give a single vote for this bill, Democrats will have grounds to push them into the background.
Two wings have emerged within the Republican Party. One is the pro-Trump wing in the House of Representatives, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy; the other is the traditional wing of the party, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McCarthy has spent time golfing with Trump at his golf club in Florida while discussing plans for the 2022 midterm elections. McConnell, in turn, condemned the former president for provoking the storming of the Capitol, has not spoken to him since mid-December 2020 and barely mentions him during his speeches. Trump has called on fellow Republicans to oust McConnell from office.
For Republicans, it is quite difficult to confront Biden in the traditional way; he is relatively popular. Moreover, the Republicans will not win voters’ approval by professing the traditional limited-government agenda in the COVID-19 era, when the economy and ordinary people need the help of the government. Under Trump’s presidency, Republicans have become less sensitive to government spending and the national debt rose to $8 trillion, although both of Biden’s projects, the American Families Plan and Infrastructure Plan, call for spending $4.1 trillion.
Vin Weber, a Republican strategist, shared his vision of a successful managerial strategy against the backdrop of ongoing discussions within the party: “I think that the long-term future of the Republican Party requires it to be some version of the traditional Republican Party: strong on national security, low taxes, limited government, limited regulation and in the broadest sense of the word, pro-business,” Weber said in an interview with The Hill. According to him, however, the party can’t ignore the discussions on cultural norms that are taking place across the country.
It is precisely the cultural norms — or, using the American media’s definition, the culture wars — that have become a convenient tool for the Republicans to attack Biden. It was this tool, in particular, that Cruz used when announcing his refusal of donations from large corporations. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley answered him on Twitter: “Yes! Corporate America has put Americans last. They ship our jobs to China, mock middle America’s way of life, try to control our speech and run our lives.”
For his part, McConnell, the conventional leader of the traditionalists, does not shy away from employing these tactics, which are showy, if not effective.
In particular, along with several dozen Republican senators, he has urged the Department of Education to abandon federal grants from schools that include the project 1619 in their curriculum — an initiative that aims to reframe U.S. history by marking the year when the first ship carrying slaves moored on the shores of the American continent. Developed by The New York Times journalists, this project has provoked criticism from a number of historians for its fact-free attitude. Within the framework of this project, for example, it is argued that one of the main reasons that prompted the colonists to declare independence from the British crown was the desire to preserve slavery. A prominent Princeton University professor, Sean Wilentz, along with other historians, has pointed out that by 1776 the British abolitionist movement was virtually non-existent.
Moreover, Republicans have criticized the Black Lives Matter movement and the Black History Project, which aims at achieving better understanding of Black people’s contributions to the U.S. history. This also may help them to shatter the position of the president. “I’m not going to criticize other Republicans [and] the issues they tend to focus on. For me, the amount of our debt has been a concern and continues to be and I’m going to continue battling on that front,” said former presidential candidate Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) in an interview with The Hill, commenting on the internal debate within the party. He also expressed the hope that a traditional Republican agenda will return to the center of party politics. Just a reminder: Mitt Romney lost the presidential election to Barack Obama in 2012.
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