Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, predicts that the Republican Party will not be rid of Donald Trump after President-elect Joe Biden takes over January 20, but that Trump will likely become a "shadow president" and the probable GOP nominee in 2024.
“Right now, assuming for the moment that Biden wins, it’s Trump’s nomination if he wants it,” Graham told The Atlantic's Peter Nicholas. “He has a lot of sway over the Republican Party. If he objects to anything Biden [does], it would be hard to get Republicans on board. If he blessed some kind of deal, it would be easier to get something done. In many ways, he’ll be a shadow president.”
That will be a lot for Republicans to contend with, especially those who harbor thoughts of making a run at the White House themselves. What a pain it would be for them to have to continue kowtowing to Trump and continue living in fear of his displeasure and bullying tactics and tweets.
Think about what that would mean for the country, for President Joe Biden to have to deal with Trump's criticism and second-guessing and his influence on Republicans in Congress every time he makes a move. With Trump's ego, there is no reason to expect that Graham won't be right and a Trump "shadow presidency" could be the reality for the next four years.
While all of that is taking place, expect Trump to continue whipping up his base of supporters, holding on to their loyalty, and sowing division among the American people, racial and otherwise. He'll do it, either in preparation for his attempted return to the presidency or as a giant carrot to dangle over the heads of those seeking his blessing.
Meanwhile, loyalties will be tested, perhaps like never before. Just how important will old friendships and relationships be when the lure of the presidency exists. With Trump out of the White House and without official power, how long will Republicans remain subservient to him? After all, a Republican senator is still a Senator. An ex-president is exactly that. An EX-president.
Of course, all this could be moot if Trump ends up being prosecuted either by the federal or state governments, or both. Hard to run for the presidency from prison. Of course, some have likened Trump to a Mafia boss, and we know that Mafia bosses have continued to run their criminal enterprises from behind bars.
Sen. Lindsey Graham
Until then, it will be interesting to see how Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, respond. A longtime friend of Biden's when he served in the Senate, Graham was among Trump's challengers for the GOP nomination four years ago and one of his most outspoken critics.
Back then, on CNN, Graham said of Trump, "He's a race baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn't represent my party; he doesn't represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for."
"You know how you make America great again?" Graham asked. "Tell Donald Trump to go to hell."
But, as we all know, after Trump won the presidency, Graham changed his tune and became one of Trump's strongest supporters, saying he could serve the nation best by helping him be a successful president. And so, Graham has carried Trump's water in the Congress and before the nation at every opportunity.
Even now, Graham has refused to acknowledge that his former friend, Joe Biden, won the election, urging Trump to continue fighting the results, even though the election officially has been settled by the Electoral College. But, while those challenges were underway, Graham even tried to convince Republican officials in Georgia to discard mail-in ballots that went for Biden.
Meanwhile, Graham, who once called Biden "as good a man as God ever created," led the effort to make Biden's son, Hunter, a major focus during Trump's impeachment proceedings, pushing for probes of his business dealings in Ukraine. And now, the senator is pushing for a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, whose taxes are under federal investigation.
With friends like that, who needs enemies -- right?
The president-elect, on the CBS late night program hosted by Stephen Colbert, said he was disappointed in Graham for his actions. “Lindsey’s been a personal disappointment because I was a personal friend of his,” Biden said. (Notice the past tense.)
However, Biden told Colbert that he believes his long relationships established during his many years as a senator will help him work across the aisle, that divisions can be overcome.
"Once this president is no longer in office, I think you're going to see his impact on the body politic fade," said Biden, "and a lot of these Republicans are going to feel they have much more room to run and cooperate."
Maybe. But not if Donald Trump has his way.