Before We Talk About Trump and Tuesday’s Elections, We Have to Talk About His Effect on Us

There is a lot of blame to go around for the absolute Republican debacle that happened on Tuesday night.

The polls were wrong, and it wasn’t just Republican pollsters. The quality of the party’s candidates truly sucked. And Trump’s candidates suffered the biggest losses.

Part of the problem is that Trump spent the last several days of the campaign making it all about himself. He attacked Ron DeSantis, he held high-profile rallies. He was rumored to be announcing a presidential run the night before the election, and while he didn’t do that, he did have every major media network in the country watching him at J.D. Vance’s rally.

Vance won. The majority of Trump’s high-profile candidates didn’t.

The discussion has, rightly, moved to whether or not Trump is an asset or a drag on the Republican Party. There are people who are already taking sides between him and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The people who are full-blown #NeverTrump are pointing and saying “See? You should never have chased us away!” and the people who will support Trump no matter what are eager to defend and blame everyone else for what happened.

This rigidity among either side, however, is probably just as damaging to the Republican Party as Trump is (or is alleged to be, depending on who you talk to), if not more damaging.

There was a time when inflexibility and holding on to one’s beliefs was a hallmark of character. That hasn’t changed, but it is now being confused with inflexibility and holding on to belief in a person (or the rejection of that person, as it were). The cult of personality and its polar opposite have completely bogged down the GOP’s chances to move forward from last night.

You have high-profile personalities on the side of “Trump is the best thing we had and will have going forward,” and several among Trump’s base have already decided that Ron DeSantis is the enemy and we cannot trust him. At the same time, there are already several extremely bad takes about last night coming from the side that hates the Republican Party and has done everything they can to betray their ideology in favor of destroying the party because of its ties to Trump.

Republicans didn’t kick Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger out. They left long before the base had any real say. They spent their time tearing down their own party and dug their own political graves. But the nastiness that surrounds them and their view of the Republican Party has damaged the GOP just as much as Trump’s rigid supporters have.

To clarify, this isn’t a “party first” plea – I’m not a registered Republican but I am conservative. I want the best conservative ideas pushed forward, and in that regard, Trump did a lot of good as president. There are discernable conservative victories that would not have been won without Trump, chief among them the obliteration of Roe v. Wade. But, Trump lost the popular vote twice. He lost re-election. His candidates did not do well last night. These are all points that have to be reconciled with the fact that, while he was in office, he did good things for conservatives.

As my colleague Bonchie mentioned earlier this morning, this isn’t some establishment vs. Trump thing. This goes well beyond that. We’re looking at a moment in the GOP’s history where they are faced with a hard choice: Keep Trump as the leader of the party or move forward. At this point, Trump’s ability to even play Kingmaker now is in question. However, the party can’t afford a massive purge of anyone and everyone who supported him, because that would start a civil war within the party. So both sides, if they want to actually fix what’s broken ahead of the next election cycle, have to come to terms. Outright rejection of each other can’t accomplish anything.

The Republican Party does not have a mandate after last night. Both parties got a single message from the voters, and that message is to clean up your houses.

 

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