Inside the twilight of influence.
Given the last five years, it is difficult to imagine an other-than-Trump epicenter for political intrigue, power, and influence. But it is entirely possible that, with the Trump train careening off the tracks, a brave new world of Trump-less news awaits us.
The signs are everywhere. Reeling from a failed insurrection and a second impeachment, Trump’s approval rating has plummeted to levels never before seen — now just 29%, according to Pew. A full 76% of Americans rate Trump’s post election behavior as poor, and about seven in ten Americans do not want Trump to remain a major political figure in the future. As the authors note, Trump “departs with the lowest-ever job mark.”
Congratulations on the accomplishment, Donald. Bigly!
Perhaps emboldened by Trump’s decrease in power, ten House Republicans joined the Democratic voting bloc in impeaching the president. Last time around, not a single Republican voted to impeach.
(Eight of those ten Congressmen are in districts that Trump won in 2020, by the way).
There is a growing sense among Republican leadership that the presence of Donald Trump as the GOP flag bearer did damage. Under Trump, who himself lost the popular vote in 2016, the Republicans lost the House, the Senate, and ultimately, the presidency.
Sure, the Trump operation may have registered some new voters. But for every non-college educated, white male the digital operation was able to locate, register, and turn out, two suburbanites defected from the GOP to the Democrats.
Under Trump, the GOP shrunk in parts of the country that grew, and grew in parts of the country that shrank. Leaders McCarthy and McConnell understood this. That is why McCarthy, who wanted to censure the President, did not whip the impeachment vote in the House, instead urging members of the GOP to “vote their conscience,” as he laid the blame of the failed insurrection at Trump’s feet.
Perhaps nobody in Washington understands realpolitik more than Mitch McConnell, who seems ready to abandon the Trump ship. McConnell reportedly never wants to speak to Trump again, and he welcomes the impeachment. He may even vote to convict.
Trump’s descent into political obscurity may have been hastened by his effect on the GOP fundraising efforts. The Republican Party has always existed as an odd dichotomy of one part nationalistic hell raisers, one part supply-side country clubbers. The trickle down donors will fund any operation that nets them tax cuts and deregulation, even if it means teaming up with some unsavory elements of the electorate.
Well, the former may have cost the Republicans the latter. After the Capitol coup, big money donors and special interest groups announced that they were halting donations to any politician who voted to contest the election results.
Rick Scott, the recently elected head of the NRSC, voted to overturn the election results. Last year, the NRSC — which serves as the GOP Senate campaign arm — raised about $300 million.
Let’s see how much they raise in 2021.
Corporate America seems to be ready to sever ties to Trump as well. A second, soft impeachment — one conducted by the private sector — seems to be underway. The PGA announced that Trump will no longer host a tournament next year. Deutsche Bank, Wall Street’s last outfit to entertain Trump, will no longer do business with him. New York City, his own birthplace, will terminate all contracts with the former president. Shopify, which operates Trump’s official merchandise website, also booted Trump, depriving him (temporarily) of the $900,000 the site fetched annually.
Hell, even the Girl Scouts want out. The New York chapter is reportedly seeking a way out of its 15-year lease at a Trump owned property in Manhattan, about eight years early.
“The brand is becoming radioactive,” a Trump ally told NBC News.
“He’s got to get his branding back up or they’re in trouble,” a Republican close to Trump added. “He went too far.”
Of course, it would be impossible to comment on Trump’s waning influence without mentioning Twitter. The social media giant removed @realDonaldTrump and banned the former president indefinitely. In the week since the move, election misinformation plummeted 73%.
Trump was always a feral dog that was all bark and no bite. Now, without Twitter, he’s no bark too. Without Twitter retribution, it’s no wonder why so many Republicans voted to impeach him.
Without Twitter, is another run at the White House even possible? Especially given that so much of Trump’s political power — the ability to set the agenda — required access to Twitter.
Republicans are impeaching. Americans are disapproving. Donors are forgoing. Social media is deplatforming. Customers are boycotting.
The rise of Donald Trump the politician was not a gradual crescendo, but a meteoric, abrupt ascent. It would seem as the fall follows a similarly precipitous trajectory.