One of Joe Biden’s core beliefs during, and even after, the 2020 presidential election was that Republicans, on the whole, weren’t half bad.
Yes, they had capitulated in disastrous ways to Donald Trump, but with Trump defeated, that fever would break, he argued.
“The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke,” Biden said in 2019 while campaigning in New Hampshire. “You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.”
On Tuesday, Biden admitted he had been wrong.
“I never expected the ultra-MAGA Republicans who seem to control the Republican Party now to have been able to control the Republican Party,” he said in a speech focused on inflation and his administration’s plan to corral it. “I never anticipated that happening.”
There is no question that Biden miscalculated – and badly – when it came to Trump and the Republican Party.
His belief, based largely on how past presidential losers had been handled by their party, was that Trump would be shunted to the side as a has-been.
Which, um, has not happened. If anything, Trump appears to have strengthened his grip on the Republican Party since leaving office.
How? In large part due to his repeated (and still false!) assertion that the 2020 election was stolen from him – and his work to make believing those election lies a litmus test for being a “real” Republican (as opposed to a “Republican In Name Only”).
While there was some sense in the immediate aftermath of the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol that Republicans might finally – and formally – break from Trump, the base of the party never wavered, which led the likes of Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell to retreat from their criticisms of Trump.
That cowering further emboldened Trump to make even more outlandish claims about the election. And his base went right along with him.
The Point: Biden thought that the Trump wing of the Republican Party would wither after the 2020 election. Instead, the Trump wing has become the Republican Party.