It’s November 4. A nation bracing for the possibility of days or weeks of ballot-counting has realized to their surprise that they already know who won. Texas was called for Joe Biden on Election Night, and no pathway to victory remains for Trump. As a result, although several states have yet to be called, the only question at this point is how big Biden’s margin of victory will be. One thing is clear, though: it is going to be big. The country already knows the Democrats have retaken the Senate and made gains in the House. We are looking at two years of Democrat control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government — at least.
So what happens now to the Republican party?
You might have guessed that Step One would be the recriminations, but it turns out to be Step Two. Step One is dealing with the claims of fraud. The most immediate issue: Trump has not conceded the election, despite the obvious lopsided results. Fox News and fever-swamp right-wing sites have come out with what they claim is clear evidence of fraud. CNN and the rest of Big Media purports to debunk these claims, and independent observers can see that while there are one or two possibly suspicious episodes, they are not nearly enough to have swung the election. No matter. Trump and his diehards spend weeks claiming that an investigation needs to be opened, and the drama occupies the country up to and even after the inauguration of Joe Biden.
Ultimately, Trump doesn’t refuse to leave office, and while the protests result in some isolated clashes and instances of violence, there is no uprising — although the looniest of Trump’s followers are calling for one.
Step Two: the recrimination phase. This seems like it will never end. Far from mending the schism in the Republican party, Trump’s loss only seems to intensify it. In addition to the loyal Trump fans’ claims of election fraud, Republican dogma insists that Trump was headed for an easy re-election but for the pandemic. Not every Republican agrees, and the vast majority of Republicans who remain in Congress after the bloodbath are in agreement that Trump sunk himself. That said, they are reluctant to say so for a good long while. They’re not exactly intimidated by Trump any longer, given how badly he lost — but they remain cautious about alienating the still-sizable majority of Republicans who. at least initially, still support Trump and believe the narrative that he was both stabbed in the back by the NeverTrumpers and a simple victim of bad luck and/or Chinese evildoing.
The Kurt Schlichters and Dan Bonginos of the world continue to mold themselves as the Only True Trump Fans, and their vitriol towards NeverTrumpers, which previously seemed to have no room to intensify, becomes alarmingly over-the-top. References to NeverTrumpers being literal traitors who ought to be lined up against the wall and shot become shockingly commonplace.
As the 2024 elections approach, however, it has begun to sink in to the less online and less politically hyperactive majority of the Republican party that Trump was a mistake. These are the people who loved Trump purely because he was A Winner — someone who often said things they found obnoxious or stupid, but who always seemed to beat Big Media at its own game . . . until one day it turned out he was capable of losing, and losing badly. The notion that he was totally blameless in his defeat becomes hard to swallow, and the very concept of Trump running again in 2024 is widely panned. Even those who feel like he got dealt some bad breaks are unwilling to back someone who lost as historically as he did in 2020.
With time, one or two politicians previously thought to be stalwart Trumpers begin to say the obvious: nominating Trump was a mistake. He won only because he went up against the historically unlikable Hillary Clinton. Republicans have also rediscovered their fealty to controlling spending and the national deficit and debt. Even the NeverTrumpers, who never liked Biden’s policies and either cast protest votes or reluctant votes for Joe Biden, are starting to get annoyed at the Democrats’ overreach. Absolutely zero effort is expended in terms of making it easier for Congress to enforce its subpoenas or oversight, or revamping Special Counsel regulations, or undertaking any of the myriad other simple reforms that one would have thought critical after a Trump presidency.
Here at patterico.com, the host routinely criticizes the new president, especially regarding the lack of reforms to rein in the executive. In a microcosm of the continuing schism, Trump fans hold the host personally responsible for every lie told by Biden, every radical judge he nominates, and every bad policy he pursues.
All of this seems almost inevitable. I can’t tell you who will emerge as the Next GOP Hero, or precisely the direction the demoralized party will take in 2024. But the broad outlines of the upcoming weeks, months, and years are not difficult to foresee.
Looking forward to it!!!