In recent weeks I’ve posted a lot about the election. I talked about a path for President Donald Trump to win a second term. I talked about why Trump is in the hole he is in. And I talked about a possible Blue Tsunami. Now I want to talk about what happens after the election. There is a broad range of possible outcomes– especially when we bring the Senate into this analysis. Because there are so many outcomes, I’m going to focus on three milestones– Biden landslide victory + Democrat Senate, Biden narrow victory + Republican Senate, and Trump victory + Republican Senate– and talk about the future of the party after each of them.
If Trump loses big
It’s November 4th. You wake up and check Twitter. Biden is going back to the White House. He won in an electoral college landslide and brought the Senate with him. What happens to the Republican party now? A total rejection of Trumpism–probably — both in personality and the nationalist-populist politics. I don’t believe his hold on the party would survive a historic defeat– and it would be historic in this scenario. In four years, the party would have gone from controlling a united government to losing all control. A collapse this quickly is unheard of in modern American politics.
Trumpism would collapse and we would see a political vacuum as different factions on the right fought to fill it. What are the factions? Let me offer some guesses: You would have a moderate faction lead Nikki Haley and Tim Scott. Marco Rubio could also lead a pro-family conservatism parallel to the moderate faction. We could also see an explicitly post-Trump national populism from Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz. It might even be a national populism that explicitly rejects Trump as a flawed messenger. I think Rand Paul and Mike Lee could try and lead a second libertarian moment. There would almost certainly be a surprise faction to emerge– much like Trumpism itself in 2015. Who wins? I don’t know that.
If Trump loses close
It’s November 4th. You wake up and check Twitter. Biden is going back to the White House. He won but it was too close for comfort– and Mitch McConnell is going to be majority leader again. What happens to the Republican party now?
Here I think we would see a purge of Trump from Trumpism. National populism would ascend in the party but leave Trump behind. Trump would be seen as an imperfect vehicle for their message, Yes, he brought them to power within the party, but he was too personally toxic for voters to support for too long. I think purging Trump would be less likely in this scenario than in the first one. If he wasn’t purged, I see an alternative path forward.
The party sees a close lose and blames it on those who are not lockstep behind Trump. Instead of introspection about why they lose, it will be a purge of those not totally loyal. Supporters like Lindsey Graham who back Trump but don’t traffic in absurdity for him would be blamed for the loss– “why didn’t Lindsey Graham do more to protect Trump!”
If Trump wins
It’s November 4th. You wake up and check Twitter. Trump has completed his epic comeback. What happens to the Republican party now?
The ascension of Trumpism would be secure. The only question is does it maintain the cult of personality or become a more generic national-populism? If it chooses the former, I would expect either one of Trump’s kids (i.e. Don Jr) or whoever he supports in the primary to take the 2024 Republican nomination. If it’s the latter, then we will see the ascension of those in the ideological vain but without the controversial personality of Trump– see Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz. These national populists would replace the tiring controversy with a clear and deep ideological message that Trump never even tried to have.
Exit Quote: “the most likely scenario is that an out-of-power Trump will still be viewed favorably by most Republicans, but will no longer be the political force that can handpick primary winners and dictate the party’s legislative strategy.” -Josh Kraushaar
Bonus Exit Quote: “if fusionism is really dead or dying, why should social conservatives continue to feel obliged to let “fiscally-conservative, socially-Burning-Man”-types put them in a policy straightjacket?”