Analysis: Here’s the biggest myth in the Republican Party today

This is a dumb storyline. Or, to put it more precisely, an inaccurate storyline. Because there is not really a fight between Trump and McConnell to control the party. Trump controls the party. Period.

Here’s why. Think of a political party like a country — and not necessarily a democratic one. The person who controls the military tends to control the country. He (or she) has the power, quite literally, to do what they want to do when they want to do it.

Trump is that person within the GOP. He commands the base of the party. And the base of the party comprises the foot soldiers that every politician wants and needs — whether to power small-dollar donations or turn out in primaries. The person who controls the base controls the party. Period.

We’ve seen Trump’s hold on the party demonstrated time and time again — even since his 2020 loss.

Consider:

* When Trump savaged McConnell on Saturday night, he “received huge applause,” according to CNN reporting.
* Even after the January 6 US Capitol insurrection, 147 Republicans — 139 House members and eight senators — voted to object to the Electoral College count in either Arizona or Pennsylvania. (Note: There is zero proof that the election was either stolen or rife with fraud.)
* Trump’s Save America PAC reportedly has $85 million in the bank, as compared to $84 million for the Republican National Committee, according to The New York Times.
* Republicans running for office in 2022 are falling all over themselves to win Trump’s endorsement. Witness the “Apprentice”-like scene that played out in Mar-a-Lago last month among Ohio Senate candidates. Or former Gov. Eric Greitens in the Missouri Senate race casting himself in the mold of Trump. Or Kelly Tshibaka, a former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner, announcing a primary challenge to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) — who is enemy number one for Trump. Or Rep. Jody Hice’s candidacy against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has been attacked repeatedly by Trump for not finding the necessary votes to have delivered the Peach State to the former president.
* Trump’s polling among Republicans remains strong. More than 8 in 10 Republicans approved of the job Trump was doing as president in a Gallup poll in the field January 4-15 — right in the heart of the aftermath of the January 6 US Capitol riot. (Trump’s approval overall was a dismal 34%.)

So, yeah.

All of that is not to say that McConnell doesn’t have power. He does! Particularly in the Senate, where McConnell commands almost total loyalty. And among a certain segment of large-dollar donors who have helped make the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund a massive player in the outside spending game.

What it is to say is that McConnell is simply no match for Trump when it comes to raw political power among the people who matter the most — the rank-and-file GOP voters who fuel the party. It’s just no contest.

Want another proof point? The former Republican president of the United States called the Republican Senate leader a series of names over the weekend and bemoaned the former vice president for his unwillingness to overturn the 2020 results. Watch and see how many elected Republican officials strongly — and publicly — condemn Trump for doing so.

Here’s South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the second ranking Republican in the chamber, responding to Trump’s comments in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace: “I do think that Republicans are much better off when we’re united and working to defeat Democrats. And I think the one thing that should unite President Trump, Mitch McConnell, myself, others were running for reelection this year, is getting candidates on the field who are electable in a general election.”

Not exactly a stinging rebuke of Trump, right? Right.

Trump remains the prime mover and the biggest figure in the Republican Party. And, for as long as he commands the loyalty of the party’s base, he will hold on to that status.

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