Why Trump’s appeal is fading: Midterms, investigations, and more


In the end, Monday’s final hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee landed as expected: with criminal referrals of former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department over his actions around the 2021 siege of the U.S. Capitol.

Where do the latest developments leave Mr. Trump politically? In all likelihood, right where he was before Monday’s actions. His “MAGA” base – followers of his Make America Great Again ethos – still loves him, while mainstream Republicans see him as a millstone, holding the party back.

Why We Wrote This

Consensus is emerging among Republicans that Donald Trump is not the way forward if they want to win. But people have incorrectly written him off before. Is this time really different?

“Trumpism or populism will continue to be a significant force in American politics,” says Joe DiSarro, a retired political science professor at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. This mode of thought – “Trumpism without Trump” – is evident in the latest polls, which show Republican voters increasingly opposed to another Trump presidential run but supporting many of his policies. 

But despite all of Mr. Trump’s challenges, when it comes to the 2024 presidential race, nobody is counting him out. 

“There’s no road map for this,” says Doug Heye, former spokesperson for the Republican National Committee – including the fact that Mr. Trump is the first president in the modern era to lose reelection, then run again to regain the office. 

In the end, Monday’s final hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee landed as expected: with criminal referrals of former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department over his actions around the 2021 siege of the U.S. Capitol.

The unprecedented move against an ex-president was historic. The committee of Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans accused him of inciting an insurrection, among other charges. But the referrals are merely advisory, and thus symbolic. The Justice Department, now with a special counsel in place, has already been investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters who believed his claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Today, the Democrat-run House Ways and Means Committee was set to vote on whether to release Mr. Trump’s tax returns from the years 2015 to 2020, with an eye toward shedding light on both his personal finances and business dealings.

Why We Wrote This

Consensus is emerging among Republicans that Donald Trump is not the way forward if they want to win. But people have incorrectly written him off before. Is this time really different?

Where do the latest developments leave Mr. Trump politically? In all likelihood, right where he was before Monday’s criminal referrals. His “MAGA” base – followers of his Make America Great Again ethos – still loves him, while mainstream Republicans see him as a millstone, holding the party back.

“There’s not an easy solution to this, short of Trump being indicted and convicted,” says Doug Heye, former spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. 

Supporters of President Donald Trump participate in a rally in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has released evidence this week detailing how Mr. Trump riled up the crowd that morning and then failed to intervene for several hours during the ensuing violence at the Capitol.

Trump defenders counter that he has a unique ability to thrive amid adversity, and buck conventional wisdom. Both the Jan. 6 referrals and tax return situation spark cries of “political witch hunt” from supporters. And certainly, the nine-lives quality to his first presidential run showed that he could recover from seemingly disastrous developments – such as the release of damaging audio – and still win. 



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