As the midterm elections approach, I begin to ponder how Trump and his enablers will respond to a potential blue wave. That is not an all-or-nothing proposition. If the prognosticators are right, Democrats will gain a majority in the House and do well in governor’s races. It looks increasingly likely that Republicans will maintain their majority in the Senate and we don’t have much information about what will happen in state legislatures or other local elections.
Based on what we already know about Donald Trump, he will only concern himself with the outcome of elections that directly affect him. So he won’t really care about what happens in individual states. His concern will be about congressional majorities that could have the power to hold him accountable. And if he feels threatened, we also know how he’ll react—which is to ramp up the lies and attacks.
In his book, Trumpocracy, David Frum predicted how the Republican Party will react to losses.
Whatever Trump’s personal fate, his Republican Party seems headed for electoral trouble—or worse. Yet it will require much more than Republican congressional defeats in 2018 to halt Trumpocracy. Indeed, such defeats may well perversely strengthen President Trump. Congressional defeats will weaken alternative power centers within the Republican Party. If they lose the House or the Senate or many governorships—or some combination of those defeats—then Republicans may feel all the more compelled to defend their president. The party faithful may interpret any internal criticism of Trump as a treasonable surrender to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. As the next presidential race nears, it will become ever more imperative to rally around Trump. The more isolated Trump becomes within the American political system as a whole, the more he will dominate whatever remains of the conservative portion of that system. He will devour his party from within.
In a lot of ways, we’re already seeing that happen. Any daylight between Trump and the Republican Party has already become practically indecipherable. But I think Frum is right: Trump’s dominance in the party will become complete.
As is often the case with NeverTrumpers, Frum’s point was to suggest that we should all be concerned about the future of the Republican Party. To make that case, he says this:
If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.
When I read those two sentences, I was reminded of what Doug Muder wrote when he compared the tea partiers (who paved the way for Trumpism) to the confederacy.
The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries…
The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.
What Frum and Muder describe is also underway already. As Zachary Roth documented over two years ago, Republicans have understood for a while now that they are in the minority and crafted strategies designed to demonstrate that “being outnumbered doesn’t have to mean losing.” We’re seeing that unfold right now with their attempts to suppress the vote in Georgia, North Dakota and other states.
A blue wave will give Democrats the tools to fight back against this erosion of democracy. But make no mistake about it, the efforts of Trump and Republicans to maintain power won’t end there. As a matter of fact, they’re likely to intensify.