The most durable force in American politics: Trump’s ties to his voters

The most durable force in American politics: Trump’s ties to his voters

Michael C. Bender and Katie Glueck write:

Bill Clinton once explained the nation’s two political parties by saying that Democrats want to fall in love while Republicans want to fall in line.

That adage has not withstood the Trump era. Today, it is Republicans who are besotted.

Donald J. Trump’s decisive victory in Iowa revealed a new depth to the reservoir of devotion inside his party. For eight years, he has nurtured a relationship with his supporters with little precedent in politics. He validates them, he entertains them, he speaks for them and he uses them for his political and legal advantage.

This connection — a hard-earned bond for some, a cult of personality to others — has unleashed one of the most durable forces in American politics.

Iowa Republicans, following the lead of party officials across the country, rallied behind the former president despite a list of reasons to reject him. Republicans lost control of the presidency, the Senate and the House during his four years in office. He failed to deliver the red wave of victories he promised in the 2022 midterms. He has been charged with 91 felonies in four criminal cases this past year.

And they stayed with him even as they were offered viable alternatives: Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a popular young governor who embraced Mr. Trump’s policies, and Nikki Haley, one of the Deep South’s first female governors, who credibly promised she could win back voters Mr. Trump drove away.

Yet in the first chance Americans had to cast judgment on Mr. Trump since he tried to overthrow an election, many Iowa Republicans made clear they don’t judge him. They adore him.

“Trump is not a candidate, he’s the leader of a national movement,” said Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker who has advised Mr. Trump. “No one has come to grips with what’s it like to take on the champion of a movement. That’s why even as all these legal issues pile up, it just infuriates his movement and increases their anger unbelievably.”

The risks associated with the kind of unusually strong hold Mr. Trump maintains on the party have already emerged. [Continue reading…]

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