In fact, Trump and, more specifically, Trumpism, are reshaping everything from the policies Republicans champion to the candidates who will prevail in GOP primaries to the lawmakers who will fill GOP seats. The Republican Party is enduring a full Trump makeover inside and out, and anyone who doesn’t see it is living in fantasy land.
Far from “fading,” Trump’s influence is metastasizing. When it comes to party leadership, Trump’s list of endorsees has grown to roughly 40, giving everyone he blesses a leg up in their primary. At the same time, he continues to force GOP lawmakers into retirement—particularly those with any sense of integrity, dignity, or independent thinking skills.
Trump’s personal derangement is also transferring to the masses. The delusion that the 2020 election was stolen from him—one dismissed internally by his own campaign—continues to get traction. On the same week that Arizona’s 2020 sham audit managed to find exactly zero fraud, the number of fraudits being entertained nationwide grew to four as Texas added its name to the list of ignominy. These fraudits have no authority to overturn results and no credibility among anyone outside of 2020 truther circles. But among a sizable portion of the GOP electorate, they keep some dim hope alive that the election could be overturned, Trump could be reinstated, and perhaps most importantly, that they as voters were egregiously wronged. Because it’s not really about Trump anymore—it’s about the rage and the permission structure that Trumpism has created for it.
While Trump may be channeling his acolytes’ anger to achieve his own ends, he is no longer the master of it. Trumper rage has infected nearly aspect of American public life, and it can just as easily turn on its perpetrators as it can on the rest of us. Trump told an Alabama rally last month, “I believe totally in your freedoms. I do. … But I recommend take the vaccines. I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines.” Instead of cheering for their supposed hero, the mostly maskless crowd fell mostly silent except for a chorus of boos that rang out from the throng.
Why? Because Trump’s just the vehicle for their anger, and if he’s not saying what they want to hear, screw him.
As Costa told MSNBC this week, in their more candid off-the-record moments, Republican lawmakers will tell you they’re not in control any longer.
“It’s the voters now in the Republican Party that are in control,” Costa told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace in a two-hour special on the collapse of the Republican Party. “It’s the voters and the crowds that are driving this.”
The GOP rage machine is off the rails, and it’s proving even more harmful at the local level. “We know where you live” has become its favorite refrain. A QAnon activist in Iowa used that threat this week, as a preamble to more intimidation and bullying at a local school board meeting.
“We’re going to stalk you! We’re coming to your house!” he continued, brandishing a little wand like a sword.
In Kent County, Michigan, health department director Dr. Adam London recently pleaded for help in a letter to the county board of commissioners.
“I need help. My team and I are broken. I’m about done,” he wrote in a letter dated August 22. “I’ve given just about everything to Kent County, and now I’ve given some more of my safety.” London, who issued a mask mandate for local schools, had recently been run off the road by an angry driver—not once, but twice—traveling at more than 70 miles per hour.
If America was ever a nation of laws, it’s not anymore. Slowly but surely, a system of mob rule and vigilante justice is sweeping the country. While the Jan. 6 Capitol siege surely empowered this celebration of lawlessness, its most dangerous seeds are being sown across the country at the local level during city council, school board, and health department proceedings that used to be sleepy, mundane affairs.
And while Trump has regularly stoked violence at his rallies and on Jan. 6 encouraged supposed patriots to “fight like hell” for the country, the GOP’s supposed leaders—Trump and McConnell included—are no longer in charge of the the monster they fed and created. They’re just holding on for dear life, hoping the monster doesn’t turn on them.