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Mid-November 2022, post mid-term elections. Various media outlets are reporting that Trump is furious with the lack of a Republican “red wave” sweeping the nation

I know American and UK/European politics are somewhat reversed in that in the UK and other countries you become Prime Minister of the country by virtue of being elected as leader of the biggest party, whereas in the States you become the leader of your party by being elected as President (or the highest ranking position that party currently holds such as Speaker of the House). Given that Donald Trump doesn’t currently hold any political office, does he have any official authority in the GOP? Is he the current “leader” and can he take any official actions against those he sees as to blame for this apparent failing?

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    Does the GOP bankrolling his defense in some of his many lawsuits count? It's not exactly standing, but it is a recognition of a sort of a particular relationship between the GOP and Trump - the GOP does not pick up John Doe's legal bills. Nov 9, 2022 at 23:39
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    "you become the leader of your party by being elected as President": but is that position "official" in any way? I don't believe so. Donald Trump's standing in the Republican party wasn't any more official when he was president than it is now. Party membership itself is fairly ephemeral in the US.
    – phoog
    Nov 10, 2022 at 7:03
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I believe were he to put himself forward as a presidential candidate they’d have to stop that, as they can’t show favouritism to one candidate over another.
    – Darren
    Nov 10, 2022 at 7:17
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    "they’d have to stop that, as they can’t show favouritism to one candidate over another": I believe it's less about favorism and more about absolute limits on spending for the benefit of candidates. You are right that national committee chairs are more influential in their leadership role when there is no clear national political star in the party, especially early in presidential primary season when there is a large field of candidates with no clear favorites.
    – phoog
    Nov 10, 2022 at 7:52
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    There is essentially no such thing as party discipline in the US. Donald Trump can deliver lots of votes and generate a lot of energy. He can endorse whom he pleases (or more accurately who pleases him) and that endorsement carries weight with the voters. It's been rare (although not unheard of) in recent years for a Republican to win a primary against another candidate backed by Trump. So he wields extreme influence through his ability to marshal his loyal followers. Nov 10, 2022 at 12:17

4 Answers 4

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No, Donald Trump doesn't officially hold any elected or appointed office in the Republican party or for the Republican party at the moment.

But despite that he is still a kind of an unofficial ideological leader of the party. Despite losing the 2020 presidential election against Joe Biden by any rational measure, he is still very popular with large parts of the Republican voting base. This gives Trump a lot of "soft power" in the party. Many Republicans who ran for office in the recent midterm election built their campaigns around being associated with Trump. Those who could not get an endorsement by Trump personally, often made up for that by endorsing Trump unilaterally, for example by repeating Trump's claims that the 2020 Presidential Election was fraudulent. Also, it is to be expected that Trump will seek the nomination to run as the Republican candidate for presidency in 2024.

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In the Democratic Party, former presidents are Super Delegates, which allows them to cast a direct vote in presidential primaries (most people don't vote for candidates in presidential primaries, they vote for delegates who then vote for candidates). The Republican Party, however, doesn't grant Super Delegate status on the basis of being a former president. So no, Trump can't take any formal action on behalf of the Republican Party. His influence is limited to actions that any private citizen can do (although most private citizens can't do so with as much effect as Trump): endorsing candidates, making statements against candidates, and contributing money to campaigns. He can urge official actions, such as requesting someone be censured, and his request may be enough for it to be done, but the final decision is in the hands of others.

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    I believe that Democratic super delegate status applies to the national Democratic convention only, which happens once every four years, rather than to primaries, which happen once every two years (in some places, every year) and are on a state or local basis. Nov 10, 2022 at 4:07
  • But I assume the GOP is bankrolling all the rallies he’s holding and such like, as they obviously see it as beneficial to their cause (which maybe wasn’t right after all).
    – Darren
    Nov 10, 2022 at 7:16
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    @Darren campaign finance is fairly murky subject, to me at least, but I'd be surprised if these rallies were funded by the national committee rather than by individual candidates' campaign committees and/or political action committees (PACs). This is why political candidates and PACs solicit donations.
    – phoog
    Nov 10, 2022 at 7:42
  • Great answer. I'd only add a sentence or two on whose hands the others are.
    – user2578
    Nov 10, 2022 at 20:01
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Is he the current “leader” and can he take any official actions against those he sees as to blame for this apparent failing?

US political parties don't necessarily work like that. You affiliate with a party by choice, and the party, in turn, offers you national resources (Congressional race funds, gubernatorial race funds, etc). While a party can actively remove you from power within the party, there's no de-facto leader. Instead, "leadership" often falls to the highest elected officials within the party. Lose an election, and you lose your standing within the party. In 2014, Republican Eric Cantor (then House Majority Leader) lost his primary. He subsequently stepped down as Majority Leader. This note in the article is of great importance

Cantor did not say what he will do next, but told the Richmond newspaper paper that he will continue to be active in some way in private life and advocate for the causes he believes in.

In other words, you can stay in power as long as you win (there are some exceptions to that, like Speaker John Boeher resigning after internal party dissention, but they are rare).

What power does Trump wield?

Trump lost the 2020 election, but he's in an unusual position within the Republican Party

  1. There's no other clear Republican leaders. Mitch McConnell (Senate Minority Leader) would probably be the closest thing to one right now. Kevin McCarthy (House Minority Leader and potentially Speaker in 2023) has never regained the same standing he once held since his 2015 gaffe in his bid to replace Boehner.
  2. Trump is a likely Presidential candidate in 2024 (he continues to hint he will announce his bid soon). Since he was an elected President, he still has some prominence in the media.
  3. Trump still polls well among the GOP. Mind you, the 2024 race has not started so this is a "Trump vs anyone else" poll, but Five Thirty Eight shows Trump topping all 2024 contender polls. That still gives him something of a bully pulpit (an effect enhanced by social media)
  4. Trump endorsements. This really needs more than just a footnote, however...

Trump endorses people

In the 2022 cycle, Trump went around endorsing people, particularly if they sought his endorsement. Axios has a good rundown (mind you, a number of races are currently uncalled), but Trump made calls that were good for Trump, at least. Let's look at some microcosms from 2022


JD Vance - Ohio Senate - You'll note that article starts with "Trump-backed JD Vance", which really typifies a lot of endorsements. But Vance was running in a deep-red state. It's unclear how much Trump impacted this race. Still, Vance actively sought Trump's backing in the primary and openly endorsed Trump's "stolen 2020 election" narrative.


Kari Lake - Arizona Governor - As of this writing, Lake is slightly behind with 76% reporting. This state went slightly for Biden in 2020. Lake has also openly endorsed the 2020 narrative, and has been more full-throated about it than Vance. If Lake wins, it will be a very narrow victory for her.


Mehmet Oz - Pennsylvania Senate - Unlike other races (where Trump's endorsement is harder to quantify), Trump's endorsement likely put Oz over the top in a very close primary

Landing former President Donald Trump’s endorsement was vital for Oz, though he still had to conquer doubts about his conservative bona fides among the party base. Trump levied attacks against Oz’s rivals, portrayed him as the best candidate to win in November, and pushed Oz to declare victory before a winner was determined.

As Oz's opponent, John Fetterman, noted, Oz was a carpetbagger: Oz had not lived in the state for very long, nor had he been a longtime member of the GOP. Oz lost the general election by 5 points.


Mo Brooks - Alabama Senate - This is noteworthy because Trump endorsed Brooks early on, largely because Brooks had endorsed him early in his 2016 cycle. As with fellow Alabamian Jeff Sessions (former Senator who was fired by Trump from his US Attorney General appointment), Trump soured on Brooks when Brooks began to falter in the polls

In a statement, Trump cited Brooks’ languishing performance in the race and his attempt to move Republicans beyond Trump’s false 2020 election fraud claims. The former president said he will make another endorsement in the “near future.”

“Very sad but, since he decided to go in another direction, so have I, and I am hereby withdrawing my Endorsement of Mo Brooks for the Senate,” Trump said.

Brooks responded that he had not changed at all, and he accused Trump of dropping him for rebuffing the former president’s entreaties — coming as recently as last week — to help overturn the 2020 election.

“He wanted the election rescinded and a do-over,” Brooks told reporters in Alabama. “But there’s no legal way to do it.”

Trump subsequently endorsed Katie Britt, who was the front runner and easily won both the primary and general election in a deep red state.

TL;DR

Trump wields some power within the GOP still, owing to his fervent base. After the 2022 midterms (where Trump played some role), that power may be diminished. It remains to be seen if the GOP rejects Trump in future elections. Trump has no official role because no official role exists.

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  • I feel like the very last sentence is the key point. The GOP doesn't really even have superdelegates in the same sense the Democrats have. They hold no real power since they changed the rules in 2012. GOP "superdelegates" act more like electorals -- representing whomever their state voted for.
    – JamieB
    Nov 10, 2022 at 19:14
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U.S. Political parties do not have strong control over candidates as they do in Europe, and as such, party leadership has little if any ability to control candidates or whip them into shape. If anyone in the Republican or Democratic parties are responsible for losing an election, it's the candidate that lost the election.

As it stands, Donald Trump is still relevant as he tends to be a major party influencer for a number of reasons, most notably that he is still eligible to run for a second term as President in 2024 and in all likelihood will do so, and several other possible Republican presidential hopefuls are factoring in their own bids on the question of "When will Trump announce his bid?"

In the 2022 mid-terms, many Republican candidates (to mixed success) were characterized as "Trump Republicans." Though this wasn't helped by the fact that a scandal emerged where Democrats donated millions of dollars to candidates more aligned with Trump than not in the primaries, on the basis that they would be less competitive in the general elections when they would be running against Democrats.

There has also been a note that Trump has a benefit to down ballot Republicans when he runs, although this is debatable. Trump was very good for the party in 2016, which allowed them to retain the House and Senate, and did better than anticipated in the 2018 midterms (Where they only lost the House) and despite his loss in 2020, it was noted that many Ballots for Biden did not bother with the down ballot races at all, which meant that the Democrats had weaker control of Congress (The Democrats lost seats in the House, and while they gained the Senate, it was only due to the 50-50 even split, which meant the Vice President's Tie Breaking vote gave Dems control... but only mattered if all 50 of them voted in lock-step (Which did not happen as a small few were representing states Trump did win and were motivated to vote more in line with their constituents than with the party line in order to keep their job).

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