While most political views are focused on 2020, a longer lens to 2024 and beyond may be more informative as to the future direction of our republic.
Some never-Trumpers retain a pipe dream that an alternative, such as Bill Weld, Nikki Haley or John Kasich, could wrest the Republican Party presidential nomination from the incumbent, Donald Trump. They are seeking the remnants of the soul of what was once a Grand Old Party. At one time it could be argued, and was, that working with Trump inside the White House and in Congress helped to restrain his excesses. But that argument for too long has not held water. Anyone who continues to take a federal paycheck inside the current administration or is a Republican member of either house of Congress, ostensibly as a public servant, has clearly sold his or her soul. Moreover, those who already abandoned ship should be under a patriotic obligation to reveal on the record Trump’s illegal and unpresidential acts.
Almost any Republican of stature and integrity would be better than Trump not because their domestic social and fiscal policies and international agenda would be markedly different, but rather because they would convey their positions in a more statesmanlike, mature fashion. Abortion rights still would be restricted; conservatives would be nominated for federal court appointments; Iran and North Korea would still be trouble spots; Israel would be favored over Palestinians. But their tone would be better. They would be more appealing to suburban women. They would not be a constant source of lies. A less provocative president would probably have long enough coattails to secure a GOP House and Senate. Democrats would try but mostly fail to influence legislation.
In this Age of Trump, party apparatchiks have sold their souls. At his behest, they have stacked the deck against any inside insurrection. One can hardly blame Trump for doing what comes naturally to almost all incumbents.
The lurking dilemma for the GOP and the nation is, who will win the battle for control of the party come 2024. Will the party look for a Trump protege or will it seek to revert to its traditional policy planks and level-headed leaders? The answer may depend on how much Trump loses by or how much he wins by in 2020 (assuming, of course, he doesn’t declare an emergency if he loses and refuses to accept defeat, and if he wins doesn’t try to repeal the 22nd Amendment limiting terms of office, or simply ignores it).
Trump has shown he is like a dog gnawing on a bone he will not give up. He fixates on a topic, abetted by social media that, regardless of 2020 results, will continue to carry his mean spirited, divisive missives. Win or lose he will defend his legacy to the extreme, making it difficult, but not impossible, for the rational wing of the party to appeal to mainstream Republicans.
Our democracy works best when we have robust dialogue between Democrats and Republicans, when compromise is virtuous and the public welfare is foremost in the minds and actions of our elected and appointed officials. Grifters, incompetents, party hacks, and outright liars have reduced America to a shell of its once internationally-held glory, a status held under Democratic and Republican presidents.
We could return to those halcyon days when our word was our bond, a post-Trump world, but only if enough Republicans reconnect with their souls.