What happens to Republican Party after Trump impeachment trial?

Donald Trump's political prospects still alive after Senate votes to acquit

The images of rioters stomping through the US Capitol building played in the very halls they had threatened.

But even the videos of the January 6 riot and the pleas of Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, were not enough to convince the Republican Party to convict former president Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection.

In the end, the vote went mostly along party lines. Fifty-seven voted in favour of convicting and 43 against, 10 votes short of the necessary two thirds majority.

Seven republicans, including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, voted to convict but the message was clear.

“This is a definitive outcome. The outcome was he was not ultimately convicted,” said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos Public Affairs US.

So Mr Trump's political career stays alive, and the only US president to face two impeachments can one day run for office again.

The former president’s actions were widely rebuked by the party’s leaders.

Senator Mitch McConnell voted to acquit but said Mr Trump was guilty of a “disgraceful dereliction of duty".

But by allowing the former president to hold on to any future political aspirations he may have, the Republican party revealed just how divided and uncertain their future is.

"It reinforces that there still is a significant plurality of Americans and a near majority of Republicans that to one extent or the other identify with what he represents," Mr Young told The National.

Where do Republicans go from here?

There is a deep divide within the Republican ranks and the jostling for power within the party will probably only increase in the years to come.

“The final chapter of Donald Trump and where the Republican Party goes hasn’t been written yet and I think we’re going to have a real battle for the soul of the Republican party over the next couple of years,” Larry Hogan, the Republican Governor of Maryland, told CNN.

Mr Young agrees with that assessment.

“There is this battle between more traditional establishment Republicans, versus this more American first nativist wing, but actually the Republican Party needs both to win," he said.

"They need to reconcile that coalition but there is a lot of uncertainty still.”

The first test will come in the 2022 primaries and midterms.

“Usually the party out of power does better,” Mr Young said.

He expects the Trump wing of the party to win out over the more moderate establishment side in the primaries but is unsure how they will fare in the general election.

The ideas and "America First" approach Mr Trump brought to the party will probably continue to consume the party for years.

“Whether it’s Trump or what he represents, it's here and it’s embedded in the DNA of America and the Republican Party, and it’s here to stay in the near term,” Mr Young said.

But the “nativist” approach he championed may not dominate the party forever.

“The long-term trend is away from America First," Mr Young said. "That’s what the data suggests.

"New generations coming into populations tend to be more tolerant and more international in scope. But that’s the long-term trend.

"What happens in the interim, let's say in my lifetime, it is going to be a tit for tat and we’re going to see ultimately what happens to the Republican Party.

"There’s a really big question mark about whether there is a home for this more traditional wing of the party."

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