In USA Today this week, Rick Hampson speculated on what might become of the Republican Party if Donald Trump failed to pull off the big win in November.
“A Trump loss, especially a big one, could call into question the GOP’s ability to elect candidates – a major party’s raison d’etre,” Hampson wrote. “A week before Trump announced his candidacy last June, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus said defeat was not an option: ‘We don’t exist as a national party if we don’t win in 2016.’
“Now the party establishment seems braced for the apocalypse,” Hampson continued. “At a George W. Bush administration reunion in April, the former president told some attendees he was worried he’d be the ‘last Republican president.'”
Hampson’s just another liberal writer filling a word count, but Ann Coulter – one of the earliest and most passionate of Trump’s supporters – made a similar comment just the other day. She, too, fears that Bush might be the last of the Republican presidents. For her, the concern is illegal immigration, which will eventually make it impossible for conservatives to win a national election.
Of course, even if Trump wins, the Republican Party may continue in name only. His candidacy has been one of revolution, and he’s way off the GOP map on everything from immigration to free trade. If Trump’s populist brand of conservatism puts him in the White House, the so-called “neocon” era will be finished.
In the best possible future, Trump will win in November and the GOP will absorb some – but not all – of his ideas. He’ll show the country that the Republican Party is not just for rich guys or churchgoers; that conservatism is an ideology that makes no distinction between black or white, Jew or Christian, man or woman. He’ll restore security to our borders, and he’ll restore faith to a fractured nation.
But as much as we might wish it so, we can’t count on that jackpot scenario. In the late hours of November 8th, we may get the dreaded news: Four more years of this crap. And if Trump loses, it may very well be the straw that broke the GOP’s back. Millions of Americans will channel their heartbreak into outrage – outrage at the Republican politicians who launched more vitriol at Trump than Clinton.
It’s possible that Hillary’s reign of terror will be bad enough to force Trump’s fierce supporters back into the system when 2020 rolls around, but there are no guarantees. The 2014 midterms and their immediate aftermath – that was the first time Republican voters got burned. A Trump loss will be the second. Party leaders shouldn’t count on getting a third chance.