If Trump Loses In a Landslide, Who Runs The Republican Party?
Up until recently, it was assumed the Republicans would hold the Senate even if Trump lost the White House. The latest polls call that into question. While there is still a chance of a Trump win, and a chance even if he loses the Republicans keep the Senate, there is also a turn of events that could lead to a landslide loss for the Republicans.
The scenario works like this… as we get closer to the election, if it looks like Trump may lose AND the Senate goes Democrat, then Trump will be blamed for the loss, and have no power in the Republican Party going forward. That leaves a leadership gap. A strong Trump supporting Republican won’t be accepted as someone to fill that gap. So, as a Republican politician, your currency in a post-Trump party is how anti-Trump you were before the election.
Now let me caveat that. You probably can’t be too anti-Trump. Paul Ryan and others who abandoned the party long ago, while admirable for their principles, will be considered not loyal enough to qualify. The people who will have the highest post-Trump currency are those who stayed loyal to the party but only abandoned Trump at his craziest. So, it will belong to people who desert Trump in the last few weeks or days, provided his rhetoric about the election gets crazier (I’m sure it will).
The way this plays out then is, first you have lifelong Republicans who served in the administration, people like Elizabeth Neumann, who will abandon Trump. They don’t play politics, they have a conscience, and they think Trump has made the world more dangerous. The group of Republican national intelligence leaders who are voting for Biden is another example.
As enough people start to defect that it makes defection seem not quite so crazy, some people who have Presidential aspirations have to make the decision to defect or not. Someone like Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz gets a major penalty if they defect and Trump wins, but they get huge currency in the party going forward if they defect and Trump loses. Once the first one defects, it puts more pressure on the rest to do so.
In that scenario, with just a few days before the election, all the polls saying Trump will lose, and Trump spouting crazy nonsense because of it, you could see a rapid defection of major Republican politicians, who forgo supporting Trump in this election at the last minute, and focus on their own standing in the Republican Party post-election.
With all the rapid defections in the news, some Republican voters will start to question their decision to support Trump. And that could lead to a resounding ass-thumping at the polls.
But if that happens, who leads the Republican party? It won’t be Mitch McConnell. He’s too old and is a follower, not a leader. It will be someone younger — someone who has ideas of where the party will go from there.
I think there will be three competing themes that will battle for the future soul of the Republican Party.
- Higher Character Status Quo — This version will embrace the general ideas of the Trump administration: anti-immigration, moving socialist on the economy with more tariffs and government intervention, strongly nationalist and isolationist. The idea is that the people who voted for Trump are right, but, Trump was just too much of a liar, cheat, loudmouth, bully, and whiner. He was anti-Presidential, and so the party needs someone who shares his values but is more polished. Possible leader: Ted Cruz.
- A Return To The Reagan and Bush Principles — This narrative will say that the Republicans lost because they abandoned their core principles. To win again, they need to return to a strong national defense, free market capitalism, and pragmatic stances on immigration and other policies. Possible leader: Ben Sasse.
- A New Path Forward — A third narrative will say Trump burned the party down and it is time to chart a new course. I don’t know what this course could be but if I was going to recommend something, I’d say it’s the economic empowerment of women and minorities. Build a coalition of up-and-coming demographic groups seeking more economic power, and use Republican ideas to drive policies that grow the economic heft of these groups. It will combine historic conservative ideas like low taxes with progressive social ideas like government sponsored childcare. Possible leader: Nikki Haley or Condi Rice.
These will be 3 very different types of Republicans fighting for the future.
It’s clear that whatever happens, the Republican Party as we know it is over. Trump has taken the Republican party away from it’s core. When you have a major national magazine that published an article arguing that Trump is a bigger socialist than Biden, everything the Republicans used to stand for has clearly been destroyed. The party already lost it’s way. Hopefully a new savior is coming.