The coming four years present an interesting situation for the Republican Party. Trump will no longer hold power as president, but the Republicans will likely still have control of the Senate and will certainly have implicit control of the Supreme Court. Many are wondering if the Republicans’ strategy will return to a pre-Trump form with their still large amount of power.
Over the Trump years, liberal media outlets painted Trump as the absolute worst thing to happen to American politics and the source of all evil. While Trump is certainly one of the most dangerous political figures in American history, this narrative creates an equally dangerous assumption. It assumes that once Trump is ousted, as he now is, the Republican Party will return to a less viscous past form.
The Republican Party will not change fundamentally after Trump. Figures like Mitch McConnell may have less inflammatory rhetoric, but his basic beliefs and political goals are no different. They will continue to give tax breaks to the rich, bolster the military budget and refuse to hold the police state to any level of accountability. In fact, not only will the Republican Party not change after Trump, it never really changed with his election. The Republicans have been the prime reactionary force for many decades now; Trump changed very little in this regard. Conservative heroes like Reagan were just as brutal to poor and minority Americans as Trump and even more brutal to foreign nations. What made Trump unique to the media was his vulgarity and overt jingoism, not his actual decisions as president.
The one exception to this observation is the insane cultists of QAnon and groups like the Proud Boys, phenomena only possible with Trump and the dark corners of the internet. Since Trump did genuinely create a shift in the political consciousness, his presidency should be faulted for the rise of far-right groups and right-wing conspiracies. As to whether these cultural trends will die off with Trump, I’m far from optimistic. However, the actual policies enacted by Trump show no tangible differences from those of George Bush and older Republican presidents.
Sadly, the Democratic Party seemed to also view Trump as uniquely evil within the Republican Party. At their most recent convention, Democrats brought out many Trump-abandoning Republicans, such as John Kasich and Colin Powell, to show how even Republicans can see how terrible Trump is. The implication here, however, is that these Republicans are decent people working for decent policy goals, when that is not true in the slightest.
If the Democratic Party sees Trump-opposing Republicans as allies, what will their political goals be in the age after Trump? When all anyone seems to expect of the Democrats is ripped speeches and empty opposition, what is there to expect when they take power? If the Republicans simply shift back to a more palatable form of bigotry and hyper-capitalism, they will find neither a cultural nor institutional force opposing them.