Then-President Donald Trump speaking to supporters on January 6, 2021, not long before a violent mob stormed the nearby US Capitol.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
- In recent weeks a rift has opened between Trump and some of his most hardline supporters.
- Championing of COVID-19 vaccines, and axing a speech on January 6 sparked the discontent.
- Experts say parts of the Republican base are adopting more extreme views.
In the wake of the January 6 riot, many commentators believed Donald Trump’s political career was over.
Instead, his supporters appeared to grow ever more loyal. However, as the first anniversary of the insurrection loomed, some of his base appear to be turning on him, believing him to be not extreme enough.
In recent weeks, segments of Trump’s base have took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the leader they idolize.
The issues driving their discontent are Trump’s support for COVID-19 vaccines, and his perceived weakness on the insurrection and its political legacy.
Trump intended to deliver a speech on January 6, 2022, meant to push a counternarrative, characteristically untrue, that his supporters were not to blame and that instead Democrats were at fault.
Leaks ahead of the event said he would use the platform to push his untrue claim that the 2020 election was stolen, and berate members of the media who challenged him, a spectacle that would’ve likely delighted his hardline supporters.
But then he didn’t. Trump yanked the event at short noticed, prompting uncharacteristic scorn.
On his podcast, “The War Room,” Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon denounced the decision.
“Donald J. Trump should walk up tomorrow at Mar-a-Lago — and the whole world would be there. He’s got command of the narrative,” the far-right firebrand told his listeners.
Some of the rank-and-file Trump adherents also weighed in. Edward Jacob Lang, a 26-year-old accused of taking part in the riot, called a right-wing TV show from jail to complain about Trump’s decision.
“I am so disappointed with Trump and with the American people at large that just do not get behind the January 6 political prisoners,” he said, using a term some rioters have tried to attach to themselves.
Another factor driving frustration with Trump has been his disconnect with some of his base on his support for vaccination against COVID-19.
Trump, whose administration oversaw the swift development of the two most effective vaccines by US firms, has claimed the milestone as part of his legacy, growing increasingly clear on the issue as the pandemic dragged on.
Meanwhile, resistance to the vaccines has become a core rallying point of the Republican Party’s far right.
At a recent event, Trump was jeered by sections of the audience when he said he’d received a COVID booster shot.
When he defended the vaccines in an interview with right-wing personality Candace Owens, he was furiously attacked afterwards by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, usually a stalwart ally.
Owens herself later suggested Trump was misinformed.
The developments are signs that the hard-charging conspiratorial mindset Trump fostered in his base has taken on a momentum that can outstrip his own.
Experts have long been warning that the Republican Party would continue to drift into extremism, with Trump at the helm or not.
In an essay for FiveThirtyEight published just before last year’s election, Lee Drutman, a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America, suggested some reasons why.
He described hardening political divides, and a feedback loop of political leaders and conservative media figures seeking the favor of the Republican base by amplifying their wilder beliefs — and being rewarded with fame and electoral success.
For now — and despite the unfamiliar sight of Trump at odds with some of his fans – Trump’s grip over the GOP appears firm.
A Quinnipiac poll last October found that 86% of republicans want him to run for the presidency again, as he stirs rumors of a 2024 bid.
On core issues, notably his conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen from him, he is in lockstep with his base. Whether the two will diverge any further remains to be seen.
Read the original article on Business Insider