Realignment in the Republican Party

With Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, Many GOP Representatives and Senators are questioning which side of the fence to be on - the side staunchly defending Trump’s false claims of victory, or denouncing his legal efforts, in exchange for being deemed a “RINO” by Trump’s fanatical base. With Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, his rhetoric and ideas potentially will be leaving with him.

After Donald Trump secured the GOP nomination in 2016, we saw a major realignment of ideas - Over were the days of George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney dominating the party with their interventionist foreign policy and economic micromanagement. Many Republicans expressed their relief to being freed from the leadership of establishment Republicans in the party. After Trump won the election, many believed that his isolationist, nationalist agenda was the way to go, as he had won the election and Trump’s nominee predecessors had failed by great margins to win the presidential election. Of course, with Donald Trump’s loss, Republicans are asking themselves if it is time for the party to have yet another shift in ideas.

One option, which I think is the most unlikely, is for an establishment Republican to once again take control of the party, returning to the platform of the GWB era. The reason I believe this is so unlikely is because we saw how the efforts by McCain and Romney to become president failed greatly, thanks in large part due to them not being able to connect with their base, due to being part of the establishment. Let’s not forget, Donald Trump has a very high approval rating within the Republican Party, his disdain for “RINOS” go a long way with his supporters; If this rhetoric remains after Trump is gone, it will make it an uphill battle for any establishment Republican to clench the party’s nomination.

Another option is for Trumpism to continue to permeate the party, and a strong supporter of Trump to secure the party’s nomination such as Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, or Mike Pence. This scenario, I believe, is the most likely. Even if Donald Trump does not once again run in 2024, which is an increasingly probable scenario, his approval within the party remains to be very high - leaving many of his core supporters likely to support those most loyal to him when the time comes for the party to nominate a candidate. Furthermore, if Donald Trump does decide to run again, I see no path for any other Republican to the nomination. My evidence for this is the GOP primaries in 2020. Three respected Republican politicians attempted to wrest the GOP nomination from Trump, and failed badly. One candidate was able to secure one delegate, while Trump claimed the other 2,599.

A final option - which I believe is quite unlikely, but would be a deft turn for the party to take, is a turn to libertarianism and an adoption of the ideals of Republicans such as Ron Paul. When Paul ran as a Republican in the 2008 and 2012 primaries, he failed to shift major opinion within the party away from the many establishment Republicans who were also vying for the nomination. With Trump having relentlessly attacked the Republican establishment for his entire term in office, this could potentially open the door for such libertarian-Republicans to shift the party’s platform in their direction.

The GOP primaries remain to be many years off - the midterm elections in 2022 will likely play a role in who the party chooses to nominate, so this is merely a sequence of choices that the party could take when the time comes. One thing that we can predict is that a realignment in both the Democratic and Republican parties are very likely to take place before the next presidential election.