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'Just move on': Republicans enter post-Trump era in Democrat-held Senate

The shift to minority status is always difficult, prompting debates over who is to blame for losing the last election

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Donald Trump | US Republicans

AP  |  Washington 

Donald, Melania Trump
The party now faces a decision about whether to keep moving in that direction, as many of Trump''s most loyal supporters demand, or chart a new course.

For the first time in more than a decade, Republicans are waking up to a Washington where Democrats control the White House and Congress, adjusting to an era of diminished power, deep uncertainty and internal feuding.

The shift to minority status is always difficult, prompting debates over who is to blame for losing the last election. But the process is especially intense as Republicans confront profound questions about what the party stands for without in charge.

Over the last four years, the GOP's values were inexorably tied to the whims of a president who regularly undermined democratic institutions and traded the party's longstanding commitment to fiscal discipline, strong foreign policy and the rule of law for a brash and inconsistent populism.

The party now faces a decision about whether to keep moving in that direction, as many of Trump's most loyal supporters demand, or chart a new course.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, one of the few Republican elected officials who regularly condemned Trumpism, evoked President Ronald Reagan in calling this moment a time for choosing. We have to decide if we're going to continue heading down the direction of or if we're going to return to our roots, Hogan, a potential 2024 White House contender, said in an interview.

The party would be much better off if they were to purge themselves of Donald Trump, he added. But I don't think there's any hope of him completely going away.

Whether the party moves on may come down to what Republicans like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz do next.

Cruz spent weeks parroting Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, which helped incite the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Republican elections officials in several battleground states that President carried have said the election was fair.

Trump's claims were roundly rejected in the courts, including by judges appointed by Trump.

Cruz acknowledged Biden's victory on Wednesday, but he refused to describe it as legitimate when pressed.

He won the election. He is the president. I just came from his inauguration, Cruz said of Biden in an interview.

Looking forward, Cruz said Trump would remain a significant part of the political conversation, but that the Republican Party should move away from divisive language and tone and rhetoric that alienated suburban voters, particularly women, in recent elections.

President Trump surely will continue to make his views known, and they'll continue to have a real impact, but I think the country going forward wants policies that work, and I think as a party, we need to do a better job winning hearts and minds, said Cruz, who is also eyeing a White House run.

In the wake of the Capitol riot, a small but notable faction of high-profile Republicans are taking a stronger stance against Trump or distancing themselves from him.

The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said on the eve of the inauguration that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol was provoked by the president.

Even Mike Pence, Trump's vice president and long considered his most devoted cheerleader, skipped Trump's departure ceremony to attend Biden's inauguration.

Trump retreated Wednesday to his south Florida estate, where he has retained a small group of former White House aides who will work out of a two-story guest house on the Mar-a-Lago grounds.

In addition to advisers in Washington, Trump will have access to a well-funded political action committee, the Save America PAC, that is likely to inherit tens of millions of dollars in donations that flooded his campaign coffers after his election loss.

Those close to Trump believe he will lay low in the immediate future as he focuses on his upcoming impeachment trial for inciting the riot. After that, he is expected to reemerge, likely granting media interviews and finding a new home on social media after losing his powerful Twitter bullhorn.

While his plans are just taking shape, Trump is expected to remain politically active, including trying to exact revenge by backing primary challenges against Republicans he believed scorned him in his final days. He continues to leave the door open to another presidential run in 2024.

Some friends believe he might even flirt with running as a third-party candidate, which would badly splinter an already fractured GOP.

Trump issued an ominous vow as he left the White House for the last time as president: We will be back in some form." Many in the GOP's die-hard base continue to promote conspiracy theories, embrace white nationalism and, above all, revere Trump's voice as gospel.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Thu, January 21 2021. 11:42 IST
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