Trump and his MAGA movement stormed the Republican establishment. Now they have become so

(Chris Seward/Associated Press)

Trump and his MAGA movement stormed the Republican establishment. Now they have become so

Opinion piece, Elections 2024

Jonah Goudberg

March 12, 2024

Donald Trump’s dominance of last week’s primaries made it official: he has successfully routed the Republican establishment.

Some would argue, with enough evidence, that this happened a long time ago. Particularly in Congress, the party is divided into three, sometimes overlapping factions: Reaganites, pragmatists and populists.

the latter is Trump’s ‘MAGA’ faction

. Politicians from the first two groups have been retreating, retreating or reinventing themselves in Trump’s image for years.

If Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Marco Rubio of Florida aren’t completely MAGA at heart, you wouldn’t know it from their current public personas. Former Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), along with former Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) were shown the door or fled themselves. And external institutions such as the Conservative Political Action Committee,

or CPAC,

and the Heritage Foundation have repositioned themselves as MAGA organs.

That process has accelerated since Trump effectively secured the Republican nomination for president for the third time. In recent months, non-MAGA Republicans like Reps. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington announced they would leave Congress. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the last true avatar of the Republican establishment, declared that he would not run again to lead the Republican caucus before endorsing Trump.

The takeover culminates in the Trumpian captivity of the Republican National Committee. There is virtually no Republican establishment left that is not synonymous with the Trump establishment.

Michael Whatley, the former head of the North Carolina Republican Party, is the new national chairman, having earned Trump’s favor as a rampant pusher of his claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, serves as co-chair along with Whatley. And Chris LaCivita, a top Trump campaign adviser, will run the day-to-day operations. On Monday they began a large-scale purge of staffers deemed insufficiently loyal.

Trump’s son Donald Jr. agrees that his official. In an interview with Newsmax Sunday, he said the old Republican establishment no longer exists. People need to understand that America, first and foremost, the MAGA movement, is the new Republican Party. That is conservatism today.

Now you can quibble about whether a political philosophy dating back to Edmund Burke and the American Foundation can be transformed by the arrival of Trump apparatchiks at the RNC. Trump himself might even agree with this quibble.

Trump has previously described himself as a nationalist, and he at least partially rejected the conservative label in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Monday. People say, “You’re conservative,” Trump said. I’m not conservative. Do you know what I am? I am a man of common sense, and many conservative policies are based on common sense.

Whatever we call him, it’s clear that Trump thinks his team can do it alone. At a recent rally in Virginia, he stated that MAGA represents 96% and perhaps 100% of the Republican Party. We’re getting rid of the Romneys of the world. We want to get Romneys and stuff [like him] out.

Normally, general election candidates try to expand their coalitions. The exit polls in the primaries and the actual results show that Trump claims that the party is now almost pure MAGA.

A CNN analysis found that in each of the six states with entry and exit polls, a significant minority of the Republican electorate was directly identified as part of the MAGA or Make American Great Again movement, ranging from about a third in California, Virginia and New Hampshire to almost half in Iowa. In other words, between half and two-thirds of Republicans have the primary vote


identify as MAGA. Most will probably still hold their noses and vote for Trump in November, but that’s not proof that the Republican Party is completely Trumpian.

The National GOP


however, is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Trumpism. This fits in with a movement that is often as concerned about taking over the party as it is about taking over the government. In the Republican primaries, Trump has tended to support loyalists with bleak general election prospects over more traditional Republicans with a greater chance of actually winning seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The MAGA movement seems convinced that a purer party, committed to Trump, is somehow better than one saddled with the remnants of the old Republican coalition.

For all practical purposes, their wish has been granted. That will be good for the movement if Trump wins in November. But if he loses, they have no one to blame but themselves. After all, they are the establishment now.



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