Trump has a grip on the Republican Party — can it be broken?

“What a populist strongman wants is not fealty to the party, but for the party to be loyal to him,” says a Mason University scholar.

On his way out of office, former President Trump helped inspire a political coup. Nearly 70% of Republican voters still believe “the big lie” that Trump espoused, declaring that Democrats did not actually win the 2020 presidential election.

But lying was not unusual — it marked the Trump presidency. More than 30,000 lies espoused by the former president have been proven false, yet Trump’s base still holds strong — and Michigan is a great example.

Kristina Karamo recently won the GOP nomination for secretary of state, but was largely unheard of outside Oakland County until Trump’s endorsement. Now, many moderate Republicans and Americans are wondering if there anything that can break Trump’s hold on the Republican Party.

“As these people run to the right or run Trump-ward, how are they going to try and pivot back in a way that’s never had to happen before?” — Gunner Ramer, political director for Republicans for the Rule of Law

Listen: Why Trump’s appeal has endured.



Gunner Ramer is the political director for Republicans for the Rule of Law, a national nonprofit. His colleague, Sarah Longwell, recently wrote, “Trump supporters explain why they believe the big lie,” for The Atlantic.

Ramer says his nonprofit frequently conducts focus groups with Trump voters, and that not only do most Republicans still believe the election was stolen, they want Trump to run again.

“They say they like his policies, but we push them on it and the main response is, ‘we like the America first agenda,’” Ramer says.

Shikha Dalmia is a visiting fellow with George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, where she started a new program to study and resist the rise of right-wing populist authoritarianism around the world. She further explores this topic on her Substack, “The Unpopulist.”

Dalmia says a lot of Republicans are trying to “out-Trump, Trump.”

“What we are witnessing right now,” says Dalmia, “is a movement of right-wing populism that’s very much focused on ‘the other’ — the foreigner — they are the ones being scapegoated.”

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