I’m saying the scary parts out loud that everyone knows in their heart of hearts:
There will be Trumpism after Trump.
I don’t mean in the event that — God forbid! — he wins reelection. No, I mean even if Donald Trump loses in November. No matter what.
There are three scenarios that I can see. Of course, as we have already learned, we no longer live in normal times, and an unforeseen scenario — or 10 — could crop up before fall. But I’m exploring what I see as the most likely scenarios.
Biden wins in a squeaker
First, there’s the situation in which former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden ekes out a win. In that case, Trumpism — the xenophobia, the racism, the misogyny, the ludicrous conspiracy theories, the lies, the endless, endless, endless tweeting — will simply roll on as before. He will encourage his MAGA cult (possibly through his own TV network) to embrace false notions of voter fraud and to believe that they need to double-down on the crazy. Expect this scenario even if Biden wins with up to 5 percent of the vote. And don’t be surprised if Trump upends the Republican Party by running for president again in 2024, building it up as some kind of WWE-style rematch. The opportunistic Republican politicians already eyeing 2024 will just have to wait.
Biden wins in a Democratic tsunami
In the next scenario, Biden wins in a Lyndon Johnson-style blowout. Democrats go further, not just recapturing the presidency, but retaking the U.S. Senate in a bloodbath. Everyone expects Senators Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and Martha McSally to lose; however, Senators Thom Tillis, Kelly Loeffler, Joni Ernst, and Steve Daines are vulnerable.
What if the Democrats win some of those seats, plus quite a few surprise upsets — maybe even Mitch McConnell’s or Lindsey Graham’s seat? The George Conways and Bill Kristols and Mitt Romneys of the world will say, “See? America is changing, and we can’t win if we cling to the ever-diminishing cohort of racist white people. Black and brown is the future, and the sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can start rebuilding the party and digging out from this hole in which we lost by millions in the popular vote and even got killed in the Electoral College.” That’s what would make sense.
Republicans still don’t change, even after Biden wins
However, I still don’t think that the Never-Trump Republicans will be able to sway the party. Senators Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley, Congressmen Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and the other Trump Mini-Mes are likely to claim that the problem was that Republicans didn’t embrace authoritarianism, legal double standards, voter suppression, faux outrage, bigotry, and wealthy elites at the cost of everyone else enough. We need more Trumpism, not less!
As Henry Olsen, a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, told The Atlantic, a Biden blowout is “a scenario … that will change the narrative and embolden the revolt against modified Trumpism. But it’s not going to change the dynamics of the party.”
Mike Madrid, a co-founder of the anti-Trump Republican PAC The Lincoln Project, explained why to The Atlantic. Much to his sorrow, Republicans like him have fled the party, Madrid said. They will continue fleeing. That means that those who remain — the most virulently Trumpian of the MAGA cult — will make up a bigger and bigger proportion of the remaining GOP.
“There will be a much more sizable voice for a different direction. The problem is, it’s not likely to be big enough, because the base is still his base — it’s still 75 percent of folks,” he said. And an ever-growing percentage — at least for the next four to eight, maybe even 12 years.
Remember that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced the same type of Hoover-clone Republican opponent, election after election, for 12 years. And that was before the current polarization. Even then, it took until Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 before the GOP abandoned their hopeless approach of vowing to repeal the extremely popular New Deal.
With a party so disproportionately old and dismissive of reality, the GOP could suffer under Trumpism until the party members who rely on The-News-That-Grandpa-Watches finally die off. That won’t be in four years, for sure.