The nearly 167-year-old party is divided over the typically mundane congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. The process, which will unfold Wednesday on Capitol Hill, is opening a schism between those wanting to honor democratic norms and those staying in lockstep with President Donald Trump out of hopes of avoiding his wrath and inheriting his supporters.
The final outcome is not in doubt: The results will eventually be certified for Biden, who will be sworn in as the nation’s 46th president two weeks later. But what comes next for the Republican Party is anything but clear.
It is party engulfed in a civil war, a split caused by degrees of loyalty to Trump. At stake: whether the party will maintain its fealty to Trump even after he leaves office and the GOP turns its eyes toward regaining the White House in 2024.
“This is the moment for Republicans to choose between deciding to break themselves free from this maniacal hold Trump has had on them or seal themselves inside the tomb he has built for them,” said Michael Steele, former head of the Republican Party. “The first shot out of the 2024 cannon will be fired. And they will either turn the cannon on themselves or move forward without the shackles of Trumpism around their ankles?”
The party’s factions have emerged in stark relief in recent days. More than 100 members of the House of Representatives, long held in Trump’s sway, have said they would object Wednesday to Biden’s victory.
And now more than a dozen senators have done the same, defying the explicit wishes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, two 2024 presidential hopefuls, are at the forefront of the movement, looking to curry favor with a president who remains wildly popular within his own party.