Sound Off! Trump Unravels Ties to GOP at his Own Peril By Luke Perry
The Republican Party has never been able to control Donald Trump. The Republican National Committee (RNC) failed to prevent him from getting the nomination, when front loading Southern states in the primary didn't lead to his defeat as hoped. RNC Chairman Rience Priebus has backed Trump ever since, though Sean Spicer’s resignation is an important indication of this support fracturing. Spicer and Priebus have long been close personally and professionally.
Priebus supported the president’s decision on Spicer “100 percent,” but Trump’s family has also urged the president to replace Priebus. The president unravels his ties to the GOP at his own peril. The party is the only thing standing between him and facing a real impeachment threat, particularly if he one day pardons administration officials and/or family members.
The GOP aligned with Trump post-election out of the belief that he offered the best chance to advance their policy agenda. These efforts have faltered, if not failed. Congressional Republicans wanted the president to be more informed and more engaged in stumping for healthcare, while becoming increasingly critical of his tweeting. Meanwhile, there have been no tax cuts. Raising the debt ceiling might be the only major legislative accomplishment in coming months. Even that is not guaranteed, nor something Republicans are enthused about.
Many Republicans expected a presidential pivot from Trump’s unconventional campaign that never came. Trump’s relationship with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell has been uneasy at best. Trump continues to refer to his party as “the Republicans,” as if he is not their leader.
If Trump doesn’t assume this role soon, someone else will. Should Priebus be asked to leave, the party will be much less likely to back an administration filled with Trump’s family and political neophytes. That someone is most likely Mike Pence. Pence has maintained good relations with Republicans in Congress as well as Trump. Should the administration completely implode, look for him to take advantage.
Trump wants a shake-up, but shaking down party elites in his administration will leave him highly vulnerable to internal dissension that is starting to boil over in ways that threaten his presidency.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College. His column Sound Off! critiques various aspects of presidential politics.