Four months after Election Day and six weeks after President Biden took the oath of office, aftershocks of the Trump presidency continue to rattle the Republican Party.
On one hand, there is the traditionalist wing of the party, headed by fiscal and social conservatives such as Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse and Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney. Both drew the wrath of the former president, with Sasse challenging some Republicans’ “weird worship of one dude” and Cheney voting to impeach Trump following the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.
Significantly, GOP moderates believe they are on the ascendancy. They are also trying to grapple with the party’s new identity as the party of Trump while also distancing themselves from the former president’s manner and oversteps.
Take, for instance, Rep. Young Kim (R-California), a freshman member of the House and an immigrant from South Korea. Young has described Trump as a “great president” but has not shied away from criticizing his rhetoric or style when warranted. She voted not to impeach Trump following the Capitol riot – not because she defended his actions or believed he had no role in the riot, but because she felt that impeaching him would thwart other attempts to hold him accountable.
Significantly, Young believes her nuanced approach, rather than the absolute views of staunch pro- or anti-Trumpers, represents a majority of GOP voters.
‘I’m the future of the Republican Party,” she told Yahoo!Finance.
However, last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) suggests that the burden of proof for that assertion rests on Young’s shoulders. Supporters of the former president dominated CPAC from February 25-28 in Orlando, and Trump took the stage for the first time since leaving office to call on the party to “get rid” of rebellious GOP lawmakers like Cheney who voted in favor of impeachment.
In a similar vein, Nebraska Republicans denounced Sasse, expressing “deep disappointment and sadness with respect to the service of Senator Ben Sasse and calls for an immediate readjustment whereby he represents the people of Nebraska to Washington and not Washington to the people of Nebraska.”
Still, it is clear that the GOP has not become a monolith. Even before the Capitol riot, Trump’s election-season fury had little effect on Sasse’s and Cheney’s re-election bids; both won their contests in November by large margins. And even Trump’s steadfast supporter in Congress – former Senate Majority leader (now Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell – has called for an investigation into possible crimes committed by the 45th president.