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WASHINGTON, Jan 13 — Donald Trump’s disastrous final weeks in office prompted a tanking of support from the US Senate’s establishment Republicans, but loyalists in the House are mounting a defiant last stand — and signaling that Trumpism may be here to stay.
A Praetorian guard of sorts is standing firm in the lower chamber, backing Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread election fraud and his futile, ten-week quest to overturn Joe Biden’s White House victory.
Their mission: to protect Trump’s legacy, delegitimise the Biden presidency, and ensure that Trump’s populist appeal can carry over beyond his term, even as other Republicans went on record yesterday that they will vote to impeach the president.
“I think President Trump has been the leader of the party and will continue to be a leader of the party,” ultra-loyalist congressman Jim Jordan told AFP as he left a committee hearing Tuesday ahead of critical votes on efforts to remove the president from office.
“Of course he’s going to have a huge influence.”
The far-right rebels include gun-toting lawmaker Lauren Boebert from Rifle, Colorado and Q Anon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia, both young first-term congresswomen who rode to election victory pledging fealty to the president.
Also in the mix is grizzled Alabama Republican Mo Brooks, who told Trump supporters to start “kicking ass” hours before they stormed the US Capitol last week triggering a deadly riot that shook the citadel of American democracy.
Even while these and other Republicans decried the violence in Washington, more than 135 of them — a solid majority of GOP members in the House of Representatives — objected to certifying electoral votes from swing states, essentially voting to throw out the lawfully cast ballots of millions of fellow Americans.
Several of such lawmakers’ comments may have served also as a rallying cry for rioters, some of whom were heard chanting “hang Mike Pence,” the vice president presiding over certification of the Biden victory.
For Boebert, whose Twitter profile shows a picture of her with a gun on her hip and holding a Trump hat, the rally was a revolutionary moment.
“Today is 1776,” she tweeted on the morning of the insurrection.
Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican who objected to the certification of the electoral votes in his own state, citing election irregularities, even demanded Biden “concede” despite winning the election by more than seven million votes.
“Be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House,” Gosar said in an opinion column.
In the Republican-led Senate, the party’s leaders firmly supported certifying the election results.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that overturning lawful election results would trigger a “death spiral” for US democracy.
McConnel was able to hold the certification objections to just seven out his 50 members.
The process in the House was more freewheeling, with Republicans eager to show allegiance to Trump but also to curry favour with his powerful base.
Veteran congressman Michael Burgess assured Trump remains leader of the party but said “time will tell” whether he maintains such a hold.
“I know this: The president was unique in that he listened to people,” Burgess told AFP. “And I do know right now people are wondering if anyone is going to listen or speak for them.”
‘More loyal to Trump’
Just eight days from leaving office, Trump is facing the biggest crisis of his presidency, with efforts to remove him snowballing.
Perhaps his inciting a mob was the final straw, and with Trump out of the White House his power may erode.
“On the other hand, rank and file Republicans still seem very loyal to the president, and many believe his nonsense about a stolen election,” said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Centre for Politics.
Pressure on House Republicans has been intense, he added.
“Many are fearful of backlash both from the president himself and also their own constituents, many of whom are more loyal to Trump than they are to the Republican Party as a whole or their elected House representative or senator,” Kondik said.
Unlike one-term presidents Jimmy Carter or George HW Bush, Trump lost the election yet “still wields an immense amount of influence within his own party.”
Does that mean Trump, age 74 and facing legal jeopardy once he leaves office, will remain at the vanguard of Republican politics?
“It remains to be seen but I think he will,” Burgess said.
For congresswoman Debbie Lesko, who served on Trump’s impeachment defence team one year ago, the mushrooming concerns about voter fraud are overshadowing Biden’s win.
“Almost half of America believes that there was election problems,” she said, suggesting that a voter fraud commission could help start “a healing process.”
But when asked whether Trumpism was here to stay, she demurred. “I don’t know what the future holds.” — AFP
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