After 2012, the Republican Party engaged in a post-mortem to try to figure out how they lost twice to Obama. All those lessons were tossed the Trump dumpster fire.
While I (and others) would have preferred a solid sweep of Trumpism out the door, I am thinking that this close loss is going to make it harder for Republicans to regroup.
The Lincoln Project folks were hoping Trump’s dramatic departure would allow them to swoop in and reshape the party to what it once was; however, there is a lot of room for a right-wing populist given the number of new voters that Trump appealed to.
The approach to 2022 is now going to be tricky for Republicans. There will be no Trump at the top of the ticket, the Republicans in the Senate are likely to be obstinate, and Biden is likely not to make radical changes (though, the economy may be in bad shape by then given that McConnell will try to spike it).
Yet, Trump’s endorsement might still be very valuable to aspiring Republicans and, thus, Republican primaries are likely to be proxy battles for party ideology in ways that the RNC itself can’t solve.
Remember: there is no Republican Party platform right now other than a literal copy and paste from 2016. Certainly, simple opposition to Biden can unite the party, but, as we saw in 2010 with the nomination of several truly insane candidates from the Tea Party, the Republicans can shoot themselves in the foot if all the only thing that binds them is opposition.
The next couple of years will be very bumpy in government and the Ds are likely to have trouble with their own coalition which is going to be less moderate because of losses in places like OK, NM, NY, etc. However, the Rs have no lodestar. They are a party moving in (at least) two directions because many features of Trumpism are not really conservative.
It is hard for me to know who the leader of the party is other than Trump – perhaps McConnell – but those two actually have some very significant differences. Indeed, McConnell looked past Trump in the waning days of the campaign when he decided not to take up stimulus legislation.
At some point, when Trump moves from “stolen election” to “I am glad I lost, I never wanted to win, and anyway I won but I left because I had better things to do”, the infighting will occur. Trump remains a possibility to run again in 2024 for the time being which will likely spook many good candidates from thinking about it until they get his blessing or there is certainty that he won’t run again.
Trump remade the GOP in his image and people are loyal to him. While terrible at many things, the man understands branding.