Donald Trump may turn out to be a one-term president, but the results from election night are a bleak reminder that Trumpism isn’t going away anytime soon. Trump has turned the Republican Party into a cult of personality, one that is willing to literally die to “own the libs.” It’s no surprise then that its freshest faces, having come up politically in an era where the party’s de facto leader displays a coziness with the far right, have fully embraced not only Trump’s politics, but his style. There is perhaps no distinction between the two—even before his run for president, Trump’s appeal was rooted in how he laid out the politics of white resentment without apology, gleefully and viciously attacking his perceived enemies and speaking the quiet part out loud through a megaphone. And the pipeline of young Republican candidates has been remade in his image, inspired by the man they now emulate. Just look at several of the Republican Party’s rising stars who on Tuesday night won their bids for Congress.
In Colorado, there was gun-loving, QAnon- and militia-friendly Lauren Boebert’s victory. Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, an unabashed racist and noted conspiracy theorist, cruised to a win, all but a given after her opponent dropped out of the race. And 25-year-old Madison Cawthorn, whose defining characteristics are a penchant for misogyny, (alleged) sexual assault, lying about his resume, an affinity for white nationalist symbols, and making wildly racist comments, won his race in North Carolina. They’re all mini-Trumps in the making, hitching their campaigns to a full-throated support of the president and relying on the same playbook that Trump perfected—rants about “fake news” and “antifa” and the Squad, red meat that conjures up a bloodthirst among the Republican base. “Cry more, lib,” Cawthorn crowed in a tweet on Tuesday night after his victory.
That these three are about to enter Congress is a sign that the future of the Republican Party leadership is going to be more candidates in the Trump mold, normalizing what was once considered fringe. Alex Pareene noted this dynamic in 2017, when he wrote that when it came to young and up-and-coming Republicans, Charlottesville was a preview. “[T]he only people entering the Republican Party candidate pipeline in the Trump era almost have to be allied with the alt-right, because the alt-right absolutely comprises the only effective and successful youth outreach strategy the GOP currently employs,” Pareene wrote.
This prediction has largely come to pass, thanks to candidates buoyed by a base activated by Trump, who has embraced the fringe and brought it to the center—a style of politics whose influence will remain far into the future. Trump created a model for how to inspire these voters. And it works.