by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Republicans are moving to replace House Republican Conference Chair Congresswoman Liz Cheney -- one of the few in her party who refuses to march in lockstep with former U.S. President Donald Trump.
The development underscores Trump's massive and continuing importance in the GOP, experts said.
The GOP's move to oust Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, from her No. 3 leadership post was recently precipitated when she greeted U.S. President Joe Biden at the Capitol and tweeted that Biden won the election fair and square, countering Trump's narrative of a stolen election.
That began the backlash against Cheney, one of a tiny number of Republicans who view Biden as the nation's legitimate president and underscores the massive influence Trump still holds over the GOP.
"I don't know if it means (Trump) is an active player, but he's still a massive presence in the party," Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua.
Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the center for international and security studies at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua that support for Trump is the most powerful motivation for private citizens to stick with the Republican Party.
"Even when Trump personally is less active, he has functional control," Ramsay said.
Indeed, a CNBC poll in February found that 74 percent of Republicans want Trump to stay active in the party, and nearly half want him to remain head of the GOP.
Former presidential contender Senator Mitt Romney recently said Trump is "by far the largest voice" in the Republican Party.
"I expect he will continue playing a role. I don't know if he'll run in 2024 or not. But if he does, I'm pretty sure he will win the nomination," Romney said.
Perhaps more telling is the fact that a number of high-level GOP lawmakers, who blasted Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, have backpedaled on their statements.
Moreover, Republicans who voted to impeach the former president have been censured by their own state parties, not to mention booed at rallies and criticized by their own base.
"The devotion of the GOP base to Trump right now is so strong, so complete, that even the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 hasn't materially impacted his influence on the party," noted Peter Wehner, who worked in the administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, in a recent article in the Deseret Magazine, a U.S. publication.
"While Trump may no longer be president, what defines the GOP today is Trump," Wehner argued.
Rather than causing a movement, experts said Trump is simply the reflection of the pent-up frustration and grievances of millions of Americans, many of them rural, working class and living in the nation's heartland.
Over the past 25 years, tens of millions of Americans have seen their jobs shipped abroad while corporate CEOs have transitioned from millionaires to billionaires. Many believe that for decades both Democratic and Republican leaders were on the side of the global elitist class.
At the same time, they believe the U.S. corporate media -- and most recently Big Tech -- are trying to silence them by kicking them off platforms such as Twitter. Many note with disgust that Trump has been banned on the platform.
The question remains how Trump's popularity in the GOP will impact the midterm Congressional elections.
Historically, midterms favor the party that does not hold the White House, noted Galdieri, and experts said the Democratic majority is tight enough that Republicans should have a good chance of winning a House majority.
Ramsay said politicians who are not personally loyal to Trump are likely to face a pro-Trump opponent in their party primary, while extremely pro-Trump politicians are unlikely to face any real primary competition.
Ramsay added that Cheney herself appears to have little interest in staying in the House leadership. The job involves a lot of work to help others get re-elected, and she will have a hot race of her own to win in 2022, Ramsay argued.
But Cheney does not want to resign, Ramsay said. "She seems to want to become the undisputed leader of the conservative fragment that rejects Trump," Ramsay said.