scorecardTrump's about to turn the GOP into one long, humiliating episode of 'The Apprentice'
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Trump's about to turn the GOP into one long, humiliating episode of 'The Apprentice'

Linette Lopez   

Trump's about to turn the GOP into one long, humiliating episode of 'The Apprentice'
PoliticsPolitics4 min read
  • After he leaves the White House, President Donald Trump is going to turn the GOP into "The Apprentice," a show where he stars, he hosts, and all the contestants compete for his favor.
  • To do that, all he has to do is keeping talking to his base.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

It's becoming crystal clear what President Donald Trump wants to do after he leaves the White House: He wants to turn the GOP into his old TV show, "The Apprentice."

Trump envisions a Republican Party where everyone who wants to be anyone has to vie for his approval, just like in the show. He will be both the star and the host. Forget about constituents. Forget about the party at large. Prepare to see some Omarosa Manigault behavior. That's what Trump likes.

Over the past few weeks there have been whispers around Washington about GOP lawmakers who told their Democratic colleagues that they wished they could congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and move on with our normal peaceful transition of power. But they couldn't, because Trump would be furious. Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said several GOP senators told him they couldn't speak freely ... yet.

If the GOP lets the Trump show go on, that "yet" may never come. Even as a private citizen, Trump will demand absolute loyalty — anyone who steps outside that will hear the old "You're fired."

The show must go on and on and on and on

Turning the GOP into a Trump show means, of course, that all the focus, all the oxygen in the room, will go to Trump. There will be no place for other Republican stars unless they are subservient to him. And party leadership will not have full control because he will direct his base according to his own wishes.

The reason for this is obvious: Trump doesn't get his power from being backed by the GOP, but from his popularity with the base, which includes many voters who don't normally turn out on Election Day. He's going to keep doing the things that make him popular with those voters: He's going to keep talking, tweeting, and likely doing rallies, even after he leaves the White House. He has to do it not only because he likes doing these things, but because he desperately needs the money to fight legal battles and pay debts.

This will all be fairly easy to do, which is good for Trump given how lazy he is. With YouTube and Twitter, he doesn't need to do the work of building his own news network. And of course, plenty of other platforms would be happy to have him. Over at Vanity Fair, Gabe Sherman reports that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is considering giving Trump a $100 million deal for a book and a show on Fox News so Trump will stop bashing the network he once championed.

So we won't be rid of Trump. And for as long as Trump is around, the GOP will subject to his whims, which have nothing to do with what's good for the party.

Consider the reports that he may run for president again in 2024. A source told The Washington Post that Trump couldn't care less about younger GOP politicians who want to run, like former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He wants to hold the space for himself whether he runs or not because he enjoys the attention and because he wants to keep the party under his thumb.

This is less like leadership and more like hazing freshmen joining a fraternity.

Trump has also told friends that he wants people to "kiss the ring" and receive his blessing before they attain power within the party. That means he will prioritize slavish devotion over talent, just as he did in his highly incompetent White House and with his highly incompetent legal team. Anyone obsequious enough will be able to travel to Mar-a-Lago for the king's approval or make an appearance at a rally. Trust that the people making that journey will not be our most upstanding Americans.

Republicans, your name is 'Reek'

Since he lost to Biden, Trump has basically stopped doing the work of the presidency. His public schedule is largely blank, and he barely addresses the American people who continue to suffer during a pandemic. When he does address us, he keeps it brief and does not take questions.

That's all to say we are now experiencing a preview of what Trump's interest in party politics will look like when he's no longer governing. And it's not promising.

We can see clearly now that Trump doesn't care about other Republicans, not even ones who have been loyal to him. If he did, he would be in Georgia helping Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler keep their seats through what promises to be a pair of challenging run-off elections. They already face a challenge in that the pandemic is worsening and many Republican voters in Georgia do not trust mail-in voting thanks to Trump.

Instead of helping to keep control of the vitally important Senate, Trump is holed up in the White House, casting doubt on the democratic process and hurting their chances of winning. One of his attorneys, Lin Wood, is tweeting inane conspiracy theories and calling for Georgia voters to write in Trump's name at the ballot box to register their delusional anger that the presidency was stolen from Trump.

The idea that the Republican Party should be destroyed as revenge for Trump's loss has been a theme in right-wing social media and among Trump supporters protesting the result of the election. They're not going to let this go unless Trump calms them down. But he won't. He's a vengeful, petty man, and he likely blames Republicans for his loss. He certainly isn't going to take any responsibility for it.

This is exactly what the Republican Party deserves. Trump went from a pariah and a laughingstock to a standard-bearer because the party could not check its thirst for power. The party debased itself, and now, unsurprisingly, Trump has contempt for it. If leaders like Mitch McConnell want full control of their party back, they'll have to show a courage we have yet to see from any of them. Until then, they'll have to pretend to enjoy the show.