Donald Trump took over the Republican National Committee in 2016 with a shocking and awe campaign that shocked party leaders. The party had to support Trump in 2020 as the Republican president.

The Republican Party has a choice as it heads into 2024.

The RNC, which has control over the party’s rules, infrastructure and policies, is not obligated to support Trump again. The GOP’s bylaws require that there be no more than one candidate for the presidency.

As Republican officials from all 50 states gathered in Utah for the RNC’s Winter Meeting, they devoted a lot of energy to addressing Trump’s grievances and disciplining his rivals. Their actions showed that the party’s primary focus remains to serve Trump and his political interests as the next presidential contest begins.

Michele Fiore (an RNC committeewoman representing Nevada since 2018) stated that if President Trump decides to run, the RNC must back him 100%. “We can amend the bylaws.”

Trump’s loyalty is yet another reminder that America’s main political parties are forming a closer relationship with someone who is undermining democracy principles. Trump incited violence at the U.S. Capitol as he tried to keep his place in the White House. He has also stated that Mike Pence, former Vice President, could and should have reversed the election results. This was something he did not have the power to do.

Pence, who was not present at the RNC meeting’s ballrooms, rebuked Trump Friday by saying that he had “no rights to overturn the election” but that his former boss was “wrong to suggest otherwise”.

This kind of dissent was uncommon in Salt Lake City. Two GOP lawmakers were criticized by Trump and joined the investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection. The RNC channeled the ex-president in attacking the panel for leading an “examination of ordinary citizens engaged with legitimate political discourse.”

Pence, whose life was in danger on Jan. 6, has been one of the few Republicans who are moving toward a 2024 campaign, regardless of whether Trump makes a comeback bid. Trump, a strong force in the GOP base, would likely run for the White House once again and he wouldn’t need to have the support of the party to win the nomination.

Some Republicans claimed that this was irrelevant.

Bruce Hough, a long-standing RNC member from Utah who lost last year to a Trump ally in the race for party cochair, said that “there’s probably some disagreement there.” “The RNC must provide an equal playing field for all candidates for the presidency. This is our job. This is what we must do.

There is a clear divide between veteran Republicans like Hough who remain loyal to the GOP as an institution and Trump-aligned newcomers who claim they are adding new energy to the party. However, their loyalty seems to be to the former president.

“Leading up until 2020, or most time Trump was in office,” he sent his minions around to populate the committee in New Jersey with loyal Trump people from a lot red states. Bill Palatucci is an RNC committeeman and frequent Trump critic. They still enjoy that strong majority.”

Trump’s continued embrace by the RNC more than two years prior to the 2024 election represents a marked shift in the party’s past positions.

Reince Priebus, the RNC chair, went to great lengths in 2012 and 2016 to ensure that each candidate was treated equally. Twelve debates were sanctioned by the party, with early rounds featuring as many as 17 candidates.

Tim Miller, who was previously employed by the Republican National Committee, stated that there is a bias now. He has become a fierce Trump critic. “It’s all Trump every time coming out of that.”

Ronna McDaniel, the RNC Chair, declined to encourage Trump’s candidacy when she was asked. This was one year ago, right after President Joe Biden had been inaugurated. She discouraged criticisms of Republicans who voted against Trump’s impeachment.

However, she supported a Trump loyalists’ effort to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a move almost entirely triggered by their fight against Trump’s enduring influence within the party beyond the Jan. 6, 2020, attack at the Capitol.

According to the censure, which was passed in a voice vote on Friday, they “support Democrat attempts to destroy President Trump more that they support winning back a Republican majority in 2022.”

McDaniel’s shift coincides to the RNC’s dependence on Trump for fundraising. Since Trump’s departure, the party has made hundreds of appeals to raise money that invoke his name. One of the party’s fundraising appeals to small-dollar donors was this: “YOU must support President Trump and YOUR Party.”

McDaniel, co-chair Tommy Hicks and other party leaders censured Cheney and Kinzinger in speeches minutes before the vote were cast, did not mention Trump. They stressed the need for unity for the midterm elections of 2022.

Although the committee’s actions showed a loyalty to the former president over time, opponents condemned the censure as divisive. They also criticized leaders for failing to appeal to more members of the party to join them.

Kinzinger stated in an interview that the RNC’s discipline shows more about them than it does about us. It shows that Trumpism and Trumpism have overtaken RNC.”

In a statement, Cheney stated that the move showed how Trump had taken control of the party.

In fact, the party’s preparations to the midterm elections were overshadowed by this week’s focus upon debates that won’t take place until 2024 as well as on anti-Trump Republicans. This is notable as the GOP could regain control of at least one of Congress’ chambers and several governor’s mansions.

Trump’s disagreements with Republican critics were the focus of Trump’s week.

Caleb Heimlich is the chair of the Republican Party of Washington state. He said that “we should be focused upon what the voters are focused onto.” This was after two of the three Republican House members voted in favor of impeaching Trump following the Jan. 6 rebellion. “I have been speaking to Washington state voters, traveling around, and nobody talks about Cheney. This is a D.C. issue.

Others disagreed.

Harmeet, a California RNC committeewoman, stated that it was crucial to convey a clear message to Cheney and Kinzinger to her and the legions working to elect Republicans in this year’s elections.

Dhillon stated that the midterms are about electing a party’s leaders. “What Adam Kinzinger did here was defy their party leadership.” “I don’t want to elect people in midterms who do the same thing as these two.”

Republicans initiated a rule change that was rooted in another long-standing grievance of Trump. The Commission on Presidential Debates proposed a measure that would require presidential candidates to sign a promise not to participate in any of the Commission’s debates. It will likely be voted upon by the RNC members when they meet again in August.

McDaniel stated that “we are not walking away” from the debates. McDaniel stated, “We are leaving the Commission on Presidential Debates” because it is a biased monopoly and does not serve the best interest of the American people.”

However, the final decision on participation will be made by the 2024 nominee.

Maryland Governor is another Republican who has his eye on the White House. Larry Hogan decried the RNC’s push to punish Trump’s opponents.

Trump’s frequent critic said that the GOP he believes in was the party of truth and freedom. It’s a sad day in my party and for the country when you are punished for your beliefs, standing by principle and refusing to tell blatantly falsehoods.