The last few years have been tumultuous for the Republican Party to say the least. That trend continued into the past election season. Leading up to the elections this past November there were predictions that a “red wave” would sweep the nation, with Republicans not only winning, but dominating their Democratic competition. When this red wave failed to materialize, Republicans began looking for an explanation. What prevented the red wave from washing away the Democrats was the division of the Republican Party over one man — former president Donald Trump.
The Democratic Party came into this election in a difficult position. With inflation increasing rapidly over the last two years and Joe Biden’s approval rating at a concerning 39% before the election, the time seemed ripe for Republicans to achieve some key victories on Election Day. In the months leading up to the elections, Trump threw his support behind 330 candidates across the country. On election night, however, it appeared that an endorsement from Trump could either be a saving grace or a death sentence.
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In Wisconsin, the GOP was hopeful they could elect Tim Michels as governor, preserve Ron Johnson’s seat in the senate and create a supermajority within the legislature. Only one of these three goals was achieved, with Johnson winning another term in the Senate. Trump endorsed Michels who lost to Democratic incumbent Gov. Tony Evers by more than 3% of the vote. Meanwhile, Johnson, who had distanced himself from Trump during his reelection campaign, won by 1% of the vote. The GOP’s shortcomings in Wisconsin were consistent across the rest of the nation.
Prior to Dec. 6, 10 of the candidates Trump endorsed for Congress lost their races, while 10 won. In the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff, another one of Trump’s endorsed candidates, Herschel Walker, lost to Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. This success rate is far from the dominant victory that Republicans hoped for.
Some GOP candidates backed by Trump scored big wins on election night, such as J.D. Vance from Ohio and Ted Budd from North Carolina keeping seats for the GOP in the Senate. Trump also celebrated the failures of GOP candidates who spoke out against him or opposed his policies, such as Senate hopefuls Joe O’Dea and Dan Bolduc. Both lost their respective races.
But there was much more a disappointment than a celebration for Republicans as the predicted “red wave” never crashed over the shores of the nation, and the GOP was quick to point fingers. Republicans accused Trump of endorsing “unelectable” candidates and attempting to draw attention to himself to promote his 2024 presidential announcement, concluding this as what stifled the red wave.
Trump’s personal interests inflicted damage on the party, preventing the GOP from gaining a supermajority in the legislature. Many major names in the Republican Party, including former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, solely blame Trump for the party’s shortcomings, according to the Associated Press.
This tension and anger leaves the Republican Party with a difficult decision. Do they continue to support Trump and elevate him as a key figure of the party, or do they distance themselves from him and move on?
Judging from the results of the last election, it seems as though Wisconsin Republicans and Republicans across the nation have grown tired of Trump. According to a study from the New York Times, GOP candidates endorsed by Donald Trump, on average, polled at five points lower than GOP candidates not endorsed by Trump.
Republican voters are statistically more likely to vote for candidates not endorsed by Donald Trump, and to create the strongest possible party, it is likely that the GOP will start pushing Republican candidates forward that have distanced themselves from Trump. As the party moves away from Trump-endorsed candidates, it will also move away from the more radical stances and policies that these candidates endorse.
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Also, considering how Trump-endorsed candidates fared in the 2022 elections, it is likely that Trump’s run for presidency could split the Republican Party as members diverge on whether or not to support the former president. Without uniform support behind a candidate, it would make it far easier for the Democratic Party to retain the presidency. Trump’s continued presence within the Republican Party could lead to a significant weakening through internal divisions.
During his time as president, Trump deepened the partisan divide at the national level, and actively created a divide within the Republican Party. His controversies combined with various legal battles, the polarization of his own party, and the United States at large, have turned him into a nuisance and a danger in the political realm.
It is time the Republican Party moves on from the failed experiment that is Donald Trump and looks to bridge the divide he has created — both within their own party and in the nation at large.
Josh Standal ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in history.