This reality is gradually sinking in if not to the president himself then to most of the people around him, and is adding even more volatility to an already tense and difficult time in the US. The Trump administration has responded to the likelihood of a loss in November not by crafting a message that might appeal to swing voters, seeking to address the Coronavirus crisis more constructively or otherwise engaging in conventional and rational political behavior-although it is probably too late for those efforts to turn the election around for Trump. Instead, the administration has sought to undermine the credibility of the election and to create a climate where the election will be overwhelmed by chaos.
Sending federal troops to Portland and other cities, floating the bizarre idea of postponing the election, continuing to raise ungrounded concerns about voting by mail leading to election fraud and other similar tactics and statements by the president and the administration are best understood through this framework. Together, they contribute to undermining confidence in the election and in laying the groundwork for a significant minority of the population to support Trumps unfounded claims of election fraud after he loses.
The Republican Party is faced with a quandary about whether or not to rally around the president and become complicit in his most egregious efforts to undermine democracyby backing up the president now the Republicans would also put themselves at risk of, politically speaking, jumping on the Titanic just moments before it hits the iceberg
Given what we have seen from Trump and the people around him going back to the campaign in 2015 and 2016, this is not surprising. However, the question of what the rest of the Republican Party will do between now and the election is different. The Republican Party is faced with a quandary about whether or not to rally around the president and become complicit in his most egregious efforts to undermine democracy. The argument for doing this is that Trump may just succeed and remain in office after January of 2021. If this happens, the Republicans will buy a few more years in power and a few more years of not being held accountable. However, by backing up the president now the Republicans would also put themselves at risk of, politically speaking, jumping on the Titanic just moments before it hits the iceberg. Aligning themselves more closely with Trump when he is likely only months way from an historic defeat could hurt the party for years into the future.
Accordingly, Republicans should recognize that the post-Trump era for the GOP has already begun. Moreover, even if through a combination of an almost unprecedented comeback and pre- and post-election shenanigans, he manages to remain in office after January of next year, Trump will be an unhealthy 74 year old lame duck president. Therefore, even if he gets a second term, the fight to succeed Trump within his own party will commence almost immediately.
Regardless of what the future holds for Donald Trump, it is likely that Trumpism will survive-and that is the core of the dilemma the Republicans have created for themselves. Trumpism has a strong appeal to a significant proportion of voters, who tend to be older, whiter and less urban than the rest of the country. That base of support all but guarantees that Trumpism will remain a force within the Republican Party for the next several years. However, that base of support has never been enough to constitute a majority of the electorate even when the economy was strong and nobody had heard of the Coronavirus.
Regardless of what the future holds for Donald Trump, it is likely that Trumpism will survive-and that is the core of the dilemma the Republicans have created for themselves. Trumpism has a strong appeal to a significant proportion of voters, who tend to be older, whiter and less urban than the rest of the country
Thus, the Republican Party will likely find themselves in a position where Trumpist candidates will continue to win primaries, but be unable to win general elections-not just for president but for other offices in competitive states and districts. This would be great news for the Democratic Party, but much less so for the GOP. There is no way to know what the post-Trumpist GOP will look like, but the future of the party depends on getting there sooner rather than later. For this reason, the fight for the future of the Republican Party between the Trumpists who constitute a majority within the party, and others who want to make sure the party will be competitive in the future will be very intense.
The first skirmishes in this fight will occur in the coming months as Republicans who want a post-Trump party will distance themselves from the president and focus on trying to win senate and down ballot races by not mentioning the president, while Trump and his supporters will continue to demand complete loyalty. Those loyalty tests will increasingly consist of Trump demanding support for his increasingly erratic behavior and policies. The response to Trumps suggestion that the election be postpone, suggests that the party is beginning to see the president as the past not the future, or even the present, of the party.
Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LincolnMitchell