Bob Dole wasn’t one of those establishment types who stuck up their nose about Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party in 2016. He endorsed the billionaire businessman in that race and was the only former presidential nominee to attend the Republican National Convention that nominated Trump to be the GOP’s standard-bearer.
All of which is why what Dole, who spent decades in the Senate and was the 1996 GOP presidential nominee, told USA Today’s Susan Page this week about Trump all the more telling.
“I’m a Trumper,” Dole told Page, adding later: “I’m sort of Trumped out, though.”
What explains Dole’s fatigue with Trump? At least in part the latter’s focus on contesting an election that was quite clearly conducted fairly.
“He lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did,” Dole said. “He had Rudy Giuliani running all over the country, claiming fraud. He never had one bit of fraud in all those lawsuits he filed and statements he made.”
The problem for Dole as well as the likes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a handful of other establishment Republicans is that they are lonely voices in the wilderness. The bulk of the base not only approves of Trump but is also on board with his ongoing attempts to push debunked conspiracy theories about fraud in the 2020 election.
Although only 34% of all voters approved of the job Trump was doing in Gallup’s final poll of his presidency in early 2021, more than 8 in 10 self-identified Republicans (82%) said they approved – a massive disconnect that makes clear that even if Trump is disliked in the country at large, he remains a hero to a large swath of the Republican base.
Then there are his wild and false claims about the election.
In polling conducted by Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to the study of democratic institutions, that was released in late June, 86% of Republicans said Trump’s legal challenges to the 2020 election were appropriate, 79% said they weren’t confident in the national vote tally and 68% said Trump really won. Another 54% said Trump should never concede.
It remains to be seen whether Trump’s single-minded focus on somehow “proving” that he actually won the election will eventually lead some significant chunk of Republicans to, like Dole, tire of him.
What makes me skeptical of Dole leading a movement of former Trumpers away from him is that Trump has always had only one gear, only one schtick that he always used. The elites are against him (and you). “Fake News.” “Make America Great Again.”
To quote Jacobim Mugatu in “Zoolander”: “The man has only one look.”
For Trump, at least for now, one look appears to be enough.