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Perspective: The GOP and Trump. Is a divorce in sight?

After Trump’s candidates failed to deliver in the midterms, the GOP might be ready to break up with its leading man

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Michelle Budge, Deseret News

On the cover of the New York Post on Wednesday morning after the midterm elections, the hometown paper of former President Donald Trump crowned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “DeFUTURE.” The cover of the Thursday paper portrayed Trump as “Trumpty Dumpty” up on a wall, with the paper asking, “Don (who couldn’t build a wall) had a great fall — can all the GOP’s men put the party back together again?” 

Post columnist John Podhoretz took the former president to the woodshed, explaining “Except for deep red states where a Republican corpse would have beaten a Democrat, voters choosing in actually competitive races — who everyone expected would behave like midterm voters usually do and lean toward the out party — took one look at Trump’s hand-picked acolytes and gagged.” 

Following Tuesday’s mediocre GOP performance, there was the usual finger-pointing on the part of strategists and politicians, grumbling to any media outlet that would publish their comments anonymously. On Twitter, Patrick Chovanec quipped, “Sources say anonymous Republicans are privately furious with Trump.”

It’s a funny joke because it’s true: all of the grumbling from those in the halls of GOP power are grumbling anonymously. 

Appearing on Wednesday on the “Megyn Kelly Show” conducting a postmortem of the election, The New York Times’ Jeremy Peters discussed the Post headline, reflecting that many conservatives feel similarly about the future of the GOP: that it’s DeSantis, not Trump. But, he explained, he is hearing that “there needs to be a break with Trump.” He went on, “I’m not predicting that’s going to happen, we’ve seen how Trump is like a political Rasputin, no matter how many times you think you’ve taken him out, he comes back. But it is telling to me that there is a very palpable sense that Trump is not the future of the party, he’s the past.” 

It’s been a long time since the GOP establishment has set its aim on Trump, and for a long time, doing so was a dangerous move that led to exile and loss. But now we’re seeing that associating with the one-term president has become the opposite of the Midas Touch; that his endorsement and an association with him is becoming a kiss of death. 

It’s not frequently that John Podhoretz and Candace Owens agree, but on the heels of the midterms, they did. Appearing on her show, Owens explained, “What I am saying is that Trump needs to take a good look in the mirror ... and he needs to exercise a tiny bit more humility when he gets something wrong.”

Owens took issue with a swipe Trump took at DeSantis leading up to the election, when Trump called his would-be primary opponent “Ron DeSanctimonious” at a Pennsylvania rally over the weekend. But Owens (along with many other conservatives) rightly pointed out, “He’s not running against DeSantis right now. DeSantis is running forgGovernor, why take a random swing?” 

Post-election Trump was doing more of the same, taking aim at one of the only GOP victors from Tuesday’s election.

To answer Newsweek opinion editor Josh Hammer’s question “Why?” the answer is quite simple: Trump’s ego has taken a beating at the hands of DeSantis and voters across America. 

Republicans have seen time and time again that Trump cares first and foremost about himself, not the overall health and success of the Republican Party. It’s why we saw him lash out at DeSantis before and after the election that he spoiled for Republicans, putting a grinding halt to palpable momentum that could have much more easily set the party up for winning Congress, and in two more years, the White House. 

Instead Donald Trump’s biggest concern the day after the election was Donald Trump. That’s how it’s always going to be, that’s how it’s always been. But the difference is, that while those working in the conservative movement and in the GOP establishment have had to kowtow to the former president for the last several years, that is no longer necessary on the heels of Tuesday’s results. But in order to dump Trump, the shield of anonymity has to come down; it’s time for prominent Republicans and conservatives, especially those who have been associated with the “MAGA” movement to come out and say it plainly and openly: It’s time to move on from Trump. 

Bethany Mandel is a contributing writer for the Deseret News. She is a home-schooling mother of five and a widely published writer on politics, culture and Judaism. She is an editor for the children’s book series “Heroes of Liberty.”