Both Jim Geraghty and Kristen Soltis Anderson make some excellent points about the future of the Republican party in the event of a Trump defeat. Anderson points out that anti-Trump Republicans are split between what I’ll call for the sake of convenience “establishment” and “tea party” factions, with each seeking a different future and each blaming the other for the rise of Trump. Geraghty points out that other Republicans are unlikely to be as successful as Trump while mimicking either his style or his heterodox views on some issues.
A successful Republican coalition has always required bringing different kinds of center-right voters together: religious conservatives, economic conservatives, business leaders, and so on. Trump’s primary victories may mean that working-class nationalists are now a self-conscious part of the coalition too. That wouldn’t mean they will always run the show. It would mean that Republican leaders would have to take account of the fact that a significant number of Republican voters do not consider the case for free trade and entitlement reform to be self-evident, and that an even larger share are skeptical of high levels of immigration and of amnesty for illegal immigrants.
It would be hard enough to integrate this group into a majority coalition if the tea party and establishment factions of the party had reached a modus vivendi–which they seemed to be reaching in 2014, but for various reasons did not. It will be much harder if those two factions stay at each other’s throats and determined to relitigate past battles.