Primary election takeaway: Trump should lose power with Republicans – USA TODAY

Former President Donald Trump has a successful endorsement track record in the GOP primaries so far. According to Ballotpedia, 119 of his endorsed candidates this year have won and eight have lost – a 94% success rate. Even Tuesday night, following the two Jan. 6 committee hearings, out of the 13 candidates Trump endorsed only one lost. However, a high success rate does not necessarily make Trump a kingmaker. 

Although there have been instances of Trump making risky endorsements that have lifted candidates from the middle of the pack to front-runner, like in the Ohio and Pennsylvania Senate races, Trump has mostly picked incumbents who were going to win comfortably.

The results from the Republican primaries on June 7 are a good example. All the 16 candidates he endorsed, from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, are incumbents who won with ease. 

Due to these facts, I do not know why the Republican Party needs Trump’s influence at all. Actually, I think his influence should be removed from the primaries, and any Republican who cares about the long-term future of the GOP should refuse to vote for his endorsed candidates. 

What about the Jan. 6 hearings? 

After the end of all the Jan. 6 committee hearings, I think his grasp over the GOP, however strong it is, might loosen among Republican voters.

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When I watched the first two hearings, what most impacted me, as a conservative, was hearing about Trump’s tacit approval of the violence and seeing the unambiguous fact that the rioters were Trump supporters. For years, I’ve heard from fellow conservatives that only the left riots and engages in violence. I’ve heard that only we respect the rule of law and “back the blue.”

Yet, the committee revealed that Trump chose to ignore the violence occurring. In the new footage of the Capitol attack shown, a supporter shouts one of Trump’s tweets through a megaphone to ignite a crowd. The tweet was sent out about 10 minutes after the rioters entered the Capitol: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” 

Jan. 6 was awful:But conservatives have good reasons to question these hearings

According to testimony from Trump White House officials, he did not want the riot to end. He seemed to approve of it when he, as CNN puts it, “angrily resisted his own advisers who were urging him to call off the rioters and thought his own vice president ‘deserved’ to be hanged.” 

Posing with a noose outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney paraphrased one of the witnesses, saying, “Aware of the rioters’ chants to ‘hang Mike Pence,’ the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea.’ Mike Pence, quote, ‘deserves it‘.”

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The committee also showed the brutality detailed in the stories and videos of Capitol Police officers being attacked. Officer Caroline Edwards suffered a traumatic brain injury and has been called “a traitor to (her) country.”

One clip from the new footage showed rioters smacking officers over the head with poles, flags, rods and batons. At the end of the video, the committee played an audio recording of Trump saying in a July 11 Fox News interview that the rioters “were peaceful people. These were great people. The crowd was unbelievable. And I mentioned the word ‘love.’ The love in the air, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

According to The New York Times, at least 20 million people watched the first day of hearings. That’s a huge audience, which likely included Republican viewers. And due to the committee’s clear presentation of Trump’s culpability, I think there is a good chance that some Republicans will want Trump to have less control over the party. And they should. Trump’s influence has done nothing but harm the GOP since he came down the escalator in the atrium of Trump Tower to declare his presidential candidacy.

How Republicans feel about the riot 

According to Reuters, only 1 in 10 people in both the Republican and Democratic Parties consider violence to be an appropriate political tool. Violence is not popular, which is why many Republicans were fed lies about the Jan. 6 rioting.

In the same report, 58% of Republicans said most of the protesters were peaceful and law-abiding, and 55% of the Republicans said the riot was led by violent left-wing protesters.

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The majority of Republicans believe this fiction because the right’s talking heads, politicians and news outlets fabricated it. Many of the right’s elites and institutions have become corrupt. Instead of promoting conservative principles, they have become utterly partisan. Concerns over shrinking the deficit, limiting government, and not picking winners and losers are no longer top priorities on the right. And instead of simply speaking the truth, they choose to ignore or trivialize the times when their side does something obviously wrong. They have to deflect blame, compare their side’s wrongdoing with the other side’s wrongdoing and consider their reelection chances or TV ratings when they speak.

To take a few examples, Fox News was the only major news network that decided not to broadcast the first day of hearings. Instead, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity did their shows in their regular timeslots.

Rex Huppke:The truth might hurt. I guess that’s why Fox News won’t show the Jan. 6 hearing.

At the beginning of Carlson’s show, he said that his show was “the only hour on an American news channel that will not be carrying their propaganda live. They are lying.”

Both Carlson and Sean Hannity had hour-long shows with zero commercial breaks and invited guests to talk about their theories of what happened on Jan. 6, 2021.

Former President Donald Trump addresses a rally on April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio.

Also, when Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., was asked about the committee hearings, he said, “I’ve been paying zero attention. … I imagine it will be this kind of theater from now until November.” When Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., was asked, he called it a “sham.”

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Besides being irresponsible, they are expressing their scorn for their followers by choosing to lie and convincing them that there are no legitimate criticisms of their own side. Because of their large followings and an even larger influence over the Republican Party, they should be using their platforms to tell the truth as they see it, regardless of whether it impacts their ratings or reelection.

And Trump is the worst offender of this reckless behavior. Any politician who encourages any means necessary, including violence, to achieve his political ends is a danger to his own party and our system of government – and is not a conservative. Respect for the rule of law and our constitutional republic’s democratic traditions are two unwavering principles of American conservatism, and Trump showed on Jan. 6, 2021, his contempt for both.

USA TODAY Opinion fellow Chris Schlak

Any conservative Republican who believes in these principles should reject Trump’s endorsement. But sadly, due to the right’s corruption, I’m skeptical that Trump’s grasp will loosen all that much.

The hearings so far have laid bare these facts: The rioting was violent, the rioters were Trump supporters and Trump approved of the violence.

But in the right’s ever-increasing bubble, such truths become more and more obscure.

Will the Jan. 6 hearings affect Trump’s endorsements? Maybe, but probably not.

Chris Schlak is an Opinion fellow for USA TODAY. He recently graduated with a degree in Government from The University of Texas at Austin in May of 2022. He founded and edited The Texas Horn, an Intercollegiate Studies Institute student publication at UT Austin. He has also edited for The Dallas Express and written for Campus Reform and the DC Enquirer.

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