While the future is murky, a few things are almost certain.
The Democrats will win the Georgia runoff.
Trump-backed candidates did very poorly in swing states this cycle. Republicans no longer have the chance to take the Senate, and therefore there’s less riding on the Georgia contest.
Furthermore, the Republicans’ state apparatus in Georgia is hostile to the former president, and already won their big races. They gain nothing exerting themselves to elect a Trump loyalist, and lose nothing by sitting this one out. Expect Raphael Warnock to win by a larger margin than in the primary.
The Department of Justice will bring criminal indictments against Trump.
Donald Trump seemed to believe strongly that if he were a declared candidate, the attorney general would not bring charges. As this is merely a custom and not a law, this wished-for immunity is not at all guaranteed. In fact, if Trump had withdrawn from public life as most former presidents have done, public pressure for accountability would likely have been much less.
Instead, if Attorney General Merrick Garland would now decline to bring charges in any of the ongoing investigations, it would be seen as establishing an unacceptable precedent for all future officeholders: Accused of a crime? Run for office. No problem. Ironically, this attempt to escape prosecution all but assures it.
The fundraising pressure will be enormous.
Up to this point, the Republican National Committee has been paying Donald Trump’s legal bills in all areas related to his term as president, and reportedly these bills are in the six figures monthly. The RNC has also used this leverage to persuade Trump to delay announcing as long as possible, claiming publicly that once Trump became a candidate he would have to cover his own legal expenses.
Also, Trump’s PAC has been steadily raising money the past two years, unrestrained by campaign finance laws that govern candidates. Now, limits on fundraising and spending, and strict reporting laws, kick in. All of this adds up to significant pressure to increase fundraising at a time when high-profile megadonors are pulling back, and runs a very real risk of public exhaustion.
The new litmus test for the GOP will be supporting Trump’s bid.
Support for the Big Lie was a major issue in the last election season. It often appeared to be the deciding factor in which Republican candidates received Trump’s endorsement.
Election denial also proved highly unpopular in the general election, with many of the loudest proponents going down to defeat in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Michigan. Now, even many of Trump’s supporters say that the election of 2020 is in the past and it is time to focus on the future.
The obvious question that will now be directed to every Republican officeholder for the next two years is, “Do you support Trump for president?” Anything other than an enthusiastic “Yes!” will be treated as heresy by the MAGA faithful, even if it turns out to be the majority position. The fallout from this conflict will not be good for Trump, the Republican Party, or the country.
— Wolf is a retired Army officer who divides his time between DeLand and New Orleans. For more, visit https://evancwolf.medium.com.