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Stay vigilant: The Party of Trump is alive and well despite 2022 losses

York Dispatch editorial board

Establishment Republicans are distancing themselves from Donald Trump after yet another disappointing election for the Grand Old Party.

Trump's cult-like following was intoxicating in 2016, when his surprise win in Pennsylvania emboldened the state's far-right wing to double down on culture war politics.

Two years later, however, a pair of candidates who cribbed from the Trump playbook — gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner and would-be U.S. Senator Lou Barletta — lost statewide races by wide margins.

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Former President Donald Trump speaks to guests at Mar-a-lago on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Then, in 2020, Trump himself lost Pennsylvania to Joe Biden on his way to becoming a one-term president. This losing streak extended into 2022 with another Trump acolyte, Doug Mastriano, stumbling across the finish line far, far behind Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro and Democrats taking a razor-thin majority in the state House of Representatives.

The conclusion is obvious to all but the willfully ignorant.

“As long as Republicans allow [Trump] to be their leader, they better get used to losing,” Matthew Brouillette, an influential conservative operative who's helped usher many Republicans into office, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

But here's the thing.

Election fraud lies got voted down last week. That's a big win for democracy

Analysis: Is GOP love for Trump cooling off in Pennsylvania?

Even if Trump's fallen out of favor with the GOP — and it's not clear that he's lost the loyalty of his most ardent supporters — Trumpism lives on nonetheless.

For evidence of this, you need only look at who's leading the Republican Party in Harrisburg.

In 2020, state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County, was the only member of Senate GOP leadership not to sign onto a letter asking Congress to delay certifying the state's electors — in effect, meddling with the results of the 2020 election.

Browne lost his seat — and subsequently his powerful role as Senate Appropriations chair — in the May primary.

Last week, Senate Republicans elected a slate of caucus leaders entirely comprised of lawmakers who questioned the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. That included York County state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, who will serve as caucus chair in the next session.

Over on the House side, Republicans haven't yet chosen their leaders for the 2023-24 session. But the only two members of House GOP leadership who declined to sign onto Trump's Big Lie are already gone.

York County state Rep. Stan Saylor, like Browne, lost his seat and his corresponding role as House Appropriations chair to a primary challenger.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Kurt Masser, of Northumberland County, announced in March that he would not seek reelection.

Given the state House's latest efforts — potentially among its last under GOP leadership — to impeach Democratic Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, it's clear which direction that caucus is heading. The effort was not undertaken in response to official misconduct but, rather, policy differences.

Meanwhile, the decidedly Trumpy Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a busload of migrants — including a 10-year-old suffering from dehydration and a high fever — across thousands of miles to Philadelphia.

And Trump himself is still haunting the GOP's parapets of power.

In a rambling speech announcing his run for the 2024 presidential race, he admired China's purported "quick trials" for drug dealers and decried "men playing women's sports." He also insisted that Democrats are "trying to destroy our country from within."

At this point, it's easy to dismiss Trump and his followers given how many times they've lost.

But they're not gone. If anything, Trump's ideas are more entrenched than ever.