Trump’s 2016 victory proved the concept that Republican voters are tired of zombie Reaganism, but his presidency did almost nothing to reorient Republican institutions and donors, which supported his administration out of convenience, not conviction. Despite four years in office, Trump built essentially no new long-term infrastructure or donor networks that could sustain a distinctive and lasting political movement, even one centered entirely around himself.

On his own, Trump may never lack an audience or fail to draw a crowd. Yet as an aficionado of professional wrestling, he should understand the limitations of a genre in which advertising rates historically tend be quite low relative to ratings, presumably because wrestling’s core audience has comparatively little discretionary spending power. Unfortunately, the parallels between pro wrestling and American politics go beyond the entertainment spectacle; they extend to economics and influence as well.

Accordingly, claims that the Republican party is “afraid” of Trump are grossly exaggerated. Republican members of Congress recently voted overwhelmingly for the National Defense Authorization Act, in spite of Trump’s public opposition to it, just as they steamrolled Trump on the recent Covid-19 stimulus and spending bill. The Republican party might give Trump a wide berth on symbolic gestures like his frivolous election lawsuits, and he could still be a factor in close races like the upcoming Georgia Senate runoffs. But on significant matters of policy, the party’s attitude is closer to contempt than to fear.