The acquittal of Donald Trump in the Senate’s impeachment trial and the repercussions facing Republicans who voted to convict him reveal a widening rift in the GOP over whether to continue to fully support the former President or marginalize him and his divisive brand of politics, CNN reported.
What had become plainly apparent from Trump’s trial was that it would be very difficult for the GOP to move away from Trump as the party sought to chart a course ahead. With Trump facing flak within the GOP and outside, Republicans who are tasked with winning back the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections are concerned the divisive fallout could seriously hurt the party’s ability to focus on regaining power in Washington.
Trump Acquittal Bares Rift In GOP
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is seen pushing for electability over loyalty to Trump, with the party facing elections for the control of the Senate in the states where the margins between Trump and President Joe Biden had been closest.
However, Republican senators who voted to convict Trump are now being criticized by local and state parties that had not so far tolerated any criticism of the former President, even four weeks following his removal from office. According to some commentators, it was a pointer to the dominance of a single leader in the party and illustrated the difficult balancing act for the party as it sought to appeal to a broader electorate with whom Trump is unpopular, while at the same time keeping its core pro-Trump base intact.
Fewer Republicans had stood by Trump during his second impeachment over the January 6 riot than during his first impeachment a year earlier. But the party chose not to break away from the former President. Only seven GOP senators voted to convict Trump on Saturday, with the numbers falling short of the 67 that could have seen him barred from seeking office again.
Their votes against his impeachment did not, however, stop some Republicans from speaking out against him over his actions after the conclusion of the trial. According to McConnell, Trump was morally and practically responsible for provoking the events of the day, CNN reported.
In an interview with Politico on Saturday, McConnell said he intended to intervene in 2022 primaries to ensure the GOP did not nominate candidates whose loyalty to Trump appealed to the Republican base but whose views would fail to appeal to the broader electorate.
He added he was not predicting the President would support people who could not win, but he thought electability, not who supported who was the critical point.
According to commentators, his approach could be tested in crucial races in Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia and other battleground states that could determine which party controlled the evenly divided Senate. They point out that Republican voters’ view of Trump, and their insistence on making those who had broken with his pay, could also impact House seats and governor’s races next year.
Commentators say the impeachment had added the loyalty to Trump angle into the 2022 House primaries. Nearly all of the 10 House members who voted to impeach the former President are now facing at least one challenger, even two in some cases or more, for their seats in midterms next year.
Some GOP senators who had voted for convicting Trump on Saturday are officially rebuking them with Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy being censured by his state party only hours following the vote. Ben Sasse of Nebraska is to face a vote in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, on Monday night, North Carolina Republican Party voted to censure retiring Sen. Richard Burr.
According to commentators, the vote could also see him replaced with Lara Trump next year. Lara Trump is the former President’s daughter-in-law and is said to be among the Republicans considering running for Senate from there.