Donald Trump owns the Republican party right now, but he treats his property poorly. Narcissist that he is, all Trump cares about is how he looks, and this week, he made it clear once again that he doesn’t really care what happens to the party beyond his ego.
In a statement to his followers, Trump declared that GOP voters would stay home unless the 2020 election results are overturned.
“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do,” Trump declared.
Of course, this is the single most important thing for Trump’s fragile ego. As for the Republican party — having the former president declare that people should stay at home instead of voting is a gift for Democrats.
It’s not as if there isn’t ample evidence that Trump’s declaration of non-participation will harm Republicans. The Democrats owe their tenuous hold on the Senate at least in part to Trump saying something similar.
The balance of the Senate ultmately depended upon two runoffs in Georgia. But Trump was busy spreading lies about election fraud in the state after narrowly losing the national election. His complaints so depressed Republican turnout that Trump helped elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Essentially, Trump told his followers, why bother to vote because it won’t matter. They believed him then, and with it went the GOP’s hopes of blocking Joe Biden’s agenda. (Krysten Sinema was happy to take up that role.)
Trump doesn’t really care about the business of party building. He just wants personal loyalty. To Trump, trashing the Georgia’s Secretary of State, a Republican, for not overturning the election was more important than helping Republicans win.
Trump’s refusal to admit that he’s a loser may be just the boost Democrats need to hold onto Congress next year. Democrats are facing an uphill battle in many ways. Midyear elections generally favor the opposition party during a president’s first term in office. Democrats have a slim margin in the House of Representatives; with a 50-50 party split, Democrats only control the Senate because Vice President Harris can vote to break ties.
Already 19 incument House Democrats have announced they won’t run for re-election. That’s a measure of how worried Democrats are of their prospects next year.
One thing that Democrats had going for them in 2020 was Trump. Hatred of Trump and fear of his authoritarian ways motivated voters to go to the polls in record numbers. That’s particularly true of younger voters, who turned out at a far higher rate than 2016.
Republicans have decided that voter suppression is the best way to handle their lack of success with voters. What they hadn’t counted on is that their leader is leading the effort against his own party.
Moreover, Trump’s continued harping on the 2020 election is an opportunity for Democrats to replay the Capitol insurrection over and over again. It’s a ready-made clip for campaign advertising.
Republicans (with very few exceptions) want to move on from the insurrection and pretend as if it was just a gathering of tourists. At the same time, they want to fuel the “big lie” that triggered the violent attack on the Capitol.
Trump’s refusal to let 2020 go gives Democrats a shot at revisiting everything that led to Trump’s defeat, starting with Donald Trump himself. Democrats may have preferred to boast about all they accomplished, but given the stalemate within their own party (thanks to Sinema), Donald Trump may turn out to be their own best weapon.