The GOP’s Post-Trump Trauma – WSJ


What is to become of the Republican Party? It will either break up or hold together. If the latter, it will require time to work through divisions; there will be state fights and losses as the party stumbles through cycle to cycle. But in time one side or general tendency will win and define the party. Splits get resolved when somebody wins big and nationally. Eisenhower’s landslides in 1952 and ’56 announced to the party that it was moderate. Reagan’s in 1980 and ’84 revealed it was conservative. The different factions get the message and follow the winner like metal filings to a magnet.

The future, according to this space, is and should be economically populist and socially conservative.

The future GOP, and the current one for that matter, is a party of conservatism with important Trumpian inflections. The great outstanding question: Will those inflections be those of attitude—wildness, garish personalities and conspiracy-mindedness? If so, the party will often lose. Or will the inflections be those of actual policy, in which case they will often win?

In terms of policy the future GOP will be more Trumpian, meaning more populist and nationalist. High spending will continue (and will not much be acknowledged!) but it will be high spending with a more conservative bent—more for cops, for instance. The party will be preoccupied neither by the capital-gains tax nor by what’s good for corporations. It won’t cut entitlements.

Skepticism about great international crusades will continue. The modern GOP has been internationalist and interventionist. (The Democrats too.) The future GOP will be internationalist up to a point—the world has a way of forcing you to think about it; trade deals need to be made. But it won’t be like it was, all flags unfurled.

Conservative social thinking—against what used to be called political correctness, against being pushed around by faculty-lounge Robespierres—will continue. It will be antiradical on race. Republicans are and will be with

Sen. Tim Scott

: America is not a racist country, but can always benefit from remembering that racism is a sin and a vice of the ignorant. The argument against wokeness is powerful: We are our souls and our character; we are not only our color and our country of origin.

Do Trump supporters even care to institutionalize their policy ascendance, or do they just want to obsess on the sage of Mar-a-Lago and insist people bow to him? Never mind

Liz Cheney,

why do they insist on putting him at the immovable center of things? Some part of it would be that they interpret respect for

Donald Trump

to be respect for themselves. They may be “the deplorables,” but they changed the priorities of a great party. There’s something to that.

But if they are serious they have to wake up. They can’t win elections without classic GOP voters. They can win with Trumpism, but they’ll lose with Trump. As they just did.

He is a waning figure. It is the way of things that a former leader becomes former, even him. He pays the finaglers around him to tell reporters how powerful he is, and reporters are only too eager to headline it, but how true is it, and for how long? He is distracted by investigations, lawyers, age and golf. His new social-media empire is a blog. What power he has is wielded brutishly but not cleverly or thoughtfully.

One of the scoops of the Cheney drama was when the Washington Post reported that in a briefing at an April GOP retreat the National Republican Congressional Committee hid from its members polling information on battleground districts. That information showed Mr. Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones: “Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.” Bad numbers had been covered up before. Ms. Cheney concluded party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid acknowledging the damage Trump could do to Republican candidates.

An NBC News poll last month had only 32% of respondents with a favorable impression of Mr. Trump. More interesting, it had his numbers falling among Republicans themselves. Only 44% of them said they were “more a supporter of Donald Trump” than “of the Republican Party”; 50% said the other way around.

Mr. Trump’s trend is downward. He is losing air, like a deflating

Macy’s

Thanksgiving Parade balloon that’s going to wind up wrapped around a light pole.

House leaders should stop being mesmerized by this guy and building him up in their heads. They are way too dazzled by his supposed powers. They shouldn’t be going on missions to Mar-a-Lago. He’s merely a force to be factored in.

They think Ms. Cheney should pay him less attention. They should pay him less attention.

It was good for the party to have someone who opposed him, and said it, in the leadership. It didn’t cause trouble in America, and made those who noticed what she was doing feel represented. If Minority Leader

Kevin McCarthy

hadn’t been so afraid Mr. Trump would come for him too, he would have stood by her and averted a crisis.

As I’ve written, in running in fear from him, they are running from a corpse. Because the insurrection changed everything. They say, “Trump got 74 million votes,” but many Republicans held their noses and voted for him. Jan. 6 forced many of them to say Basta!—“Enough!” It’s not true 74 million are Trumpists. You could as well call them 2020’s Not Democrats.

If the Republicans don’t take an honest stand on 1/6, they’re saying what happened that day was allowable, and there will be more attempts to overthrow elections. An honest stand on what happened after the election separates the party from evil. It’s not a question of aligning with Mr. Trump, it’s a question of aligning with that. Not being truthful invites half your base to go live in Crazytown and never come back, not even to vote in your elections.

What could help the Republicans unify? Normally it would be the Democrats. Their policies are always the GOP’s great unifying factor. The Biden administration is doing a good job of providing the issues. Inflation is rising; the southern border has been ruptured. The administration is silent in the face of the progressive cultural revolution with its antipolice fervor, and silent about teachers not having to teach because they have a powerful union. All this is part of the reason the Republicans may still take back the House.

You’d think a healthy party could oppose all that with documents that are thoughtful, stands that are clear, votes that are pertinent. Instead of just going on cable and scoring points off Ms. Cheney.

This week more than 100 former Republican officeholders and activists signed a letter suggesting they might form a third party. Their grievances are real but it won’t work. At the end of the day our two big incompetent behemoths function as a unifying force in a nation with too few. You’re a Democrat or a Republican, take your choice and find your place in the coalition. Give people three parties and they’ll take seven, and America will fracture.

Grit your way through this hard time. Stay and fight.

Wonder Land: By paying people not to work, the Biden Democrats will damage the U.S. work ethic for a generation. Images: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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