Trump has created a Republican Party that struggles mightily when he's not on the ballot.
At the same time, the former president's unpopularity can make him radioactive to once-loyal GOP voters.
It's unclear how the Republican Party will chart its future out of this current trap.
The Republican Party is in disarray.
Former President Donald Trump has created a solution where he alone can fix it. The catch-22 is that Trump is also the problem. And when it comes to his advantages, he can't be on the ballot forever.
For now, the GOP looks increasingly like a regional party that struggles to do the bare minimum of governing while pushing policies that make voters recoil.
Just look at Tuesday's results, Republicans failed to oust Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a popular Democrat, by tying him to President Joe Biden. While in Virginia, GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin's push for a reset on the abortion rebuke turned into a stunning rebuke. As Nate Silver pointed out, this is on the heels of the Trump-era special election struggles that featured Democrats winning an Alabama US Senate seat. Democrats also flipped Georgia and Arizona on the presidential level.
"I think the GOP last night died as a coherent national party and is now just a series of regional tribes," conservative commentator Erick Erickson wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, linking to his own longer analysis of the party's woes.
Even Trump himself is trying to have it both ways.
"Daniel Cameron lost because he couldn't alleviate the stench of Mitch McConnell," Trump wrote on Truth, his social media platform, just days after effusively praising Cameron. "I told him early that's a big burden to overcome. McConnell and Romney are Kryptonite for Republican Candidates."
While the former president has accelerated a major realignment of the nation's voters, when he's not on the ballot the MAGA coalition has mostly been in MIA. His largest legacy, cementing a Supreme Court majority that authored a landmark opinion gutting nationwide abortion rights has turned into an electoral albatross his party can't escape. And even Trump can't always ride his own wave as he illustrated in 2020 when he fell flat on a night that was generally pretty good for the GOP.
If this sounds slightly familiar, it's because Democrats once faced a similar issue. Obama-era Democrats failed to show up in large enough numbers in special and midterm elections. Promising rising stars were unceremoniously booted from office as the GOP rode a Tea Party-inspired wave in 2010 and then retook the Senate in 2014. Now, some of the very same lawmakers who rose to power on the anti-establishment wave are finding themselves tagged as "RINOs."
It's this struggle that might be the most concerning for the GOP.
More traditional Republicans recognize that even in a limited government, you have to keep the lights on, avoid debt default, and occasionally hand voters things they crave like reliable bridges and cheaper prescription drugs. Yet, the more Trump-aligned elements in Congress have recoiled against these initiatives.
Trump allies have labeled McConnell, the top Senate Republican, as a traitor for wanting more money for roads since it required working with Biden. A band of House Republicans ousted former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from power for avoiding a government shutdown. And almost daily on social media, GOP lawmakers war with themselves over who "fights" enough. This is to say nothing that voters have clearly shown that rejecting election results or worse yet trying to disenfranchise them will poison you in competitive races.
"Republicans are losing Republican voters because the base is fed up with weak Republicans who never do anything to actually stop the communist democrats," Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia wrote on X of her election takes. Just last week, she was fighting with one of the House's most conservative members.
The more traditional wing has tried to prepare for a post-Trump future. McConnell blamed the 2022 midterms on issues like "candidate quality," but it was his own protege, Cameron, who lost to Beshear by 5 points. Meanwhile, Youngkin, a sweater-vest-wearing former private equity CEO, might be the perfect generic Republican for the Chamber of Commerce wing. His brand is now tainted after Tuesday's struggles.
It isn't all bad news for the Party of the Lincoln. The Republican has asserted a stranglehold on former swing states like Iowa and Florida. And in this era of hyper-partisanship, national elections are likely always to be competitive. In long run, cutting into Democrats' advantage with voters of color will likely pay dividends. Narratives about party control can also reverse themselves quickly, just look at the Obama era.
In the meantime, the path out of this wilderness might be difficult to find.
Read the original article on Business Insider