This is my "I told you so" column.
A few years ago, I was giving a ride to a conservative law school professor. Our discussion quickly turned to politics. He asked me why I was so unhappy about the newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump. The words reflexively came out of my mouth before I could even ponder the question.
"Because I know what is coming."
Unlike many people, I knew on election night 2016 Trump had a decent chance to win the election The website FiveThirtyEight was giving Trump a 29% chance of winning, which (.290) would be a good batting average for a major league hitter. While the odds were that Hillary Clinton would end Trump's political career that night, I was aware there was an outside chance Trump might win. The FiveThirtyEight 29% estimate was a good calculation on Trump's odds.
Having long followed Trump's career, I knew well before 2016 that he was, contrary to the role he played in The Apprentice, a terrible businessman. He regularly led his companies into bankruptcy and used other tactics to not pay vendors and lenders. He became so persistent in not paying loans that American banks stopped lending to "The King of Debt," a moniker Trump actually quite liked. Trump also had a history of dishonesty, regularly using scams, such as Trump University and the Trump Foundation, to rip people off and personally profit. Trump's racism, his sexism, his xenophobia were also not unknown traits. I likewise knew about Trump's ignorance, his incompetence, his lack of fitness for office, the hypocrisy of what he was saying on the campaign trail v. the things he did and said outside the campaign
Even if one were unaware of his private life and business career, Trump's most objectionable traits, recounted above, were on display during the 2016 campaign. By nominating Trump, and associating itself with those traits, the GOP damaged its brand. But the harm to the Republican Party could have been limited. The GOP reattaching itself to the conservative principles championed by Ronald Reagan, which undergirded the success of the Republican Party for 36 years, principles for which Trump often displayed hostility, could have started the day after election.
In short, the damage to the GOP could have been temporary, with recovery only an election away.
Then November 8, 2016 happened. Pulling off narrow upsets in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, three states Hillary Clinton just assumed, based on history, would fall into her column, Trump was able to eke out a narrow electoral college win. That meant Donald Trump would not only become President, the damage he could do to the Republican Party would be exponentially worse.
I must say, however, I underestimated how bad a President Trump would be for the GOP. Certainly I knew of his unfitness for office...that Trump's ignorance and lack of temperament would hurt my Republican Party. But I thought the, then, Republican-controlled House and, still, Republican-controlled Senate, nevertheless, would stand up for conservative principles and use their authority to keep Trump in line. I thought that the "best people" Trump surrounded himself with in choosing a cabinet, would offer good advice that the inexperienced Trump would listen to and follow. I thought that the several special elections and the 2018 mid-terms would prove to Republicans that Trump's politics of hate and division could not win general elections.
I thought wrong.
Republicans in the House and Senate abandoned their principles to enable anything Trump wanted to do. Meanwhile, Trump ushered the few "best people" who were in his administration, out the door, replacing them with sycophants. And, even though the GOP was pummeled in the numerous post-2016 special elections and the 2018 mid-terms, most Republicans remained firmly convinced that 2020 would somehow prove to be different, that Trump's toxic brand of politics would suddenly and magically prove to be popular with the voters. Never mind those pesky polls that consistently said otherwise. Those polls are fake! Pollsters are working together to suppress Trump's vote! Trump will win in a landslide! MAGA!
Now as the 2020 election looms on the horizon, many Republicans officeholders, particularly those who work in the U.S. Senate, are finally waking up to a reality that in less than three weeks voters are ready to deal the GOP a devastating blow. Whether they are senior citizens, younger people, women, suburbanites or those with college degrees, all are fleeing from the Republican Party, fed up with the antics of President Trump and his sycophantic enablers who failed to ever once hold the President accountable for anything he said or did.
Moving forward, Trumpism will leave a stain on the GOP and the legacy of Ronald Reagan. Not the type of stain created when a party guest spills a coke on an artisan throw rug, but rather the type of stain left when that same clumsy guest spills red wine on white shag carpeting. The former you get out with a little hard scrubbing. The latter...well that stain will fade over time, but it will never completely go away...until the carpet is completely replaced.
I know what is coming.
Lashing itself firmly to Trump's message of hate and division, the GOP has become the party of exclusion instead of inclusion. Worse yet, the false claims Democrats have lodged against my GOP over the years - that we Republicans are racists, sexists, care only about the rich, and push ballot security measures just to suppress the vote - have been made true by Trump and his allies.
For that, there will be consequences. The GOP is almost certain to lose the White House and Senate. Indeed, two Republican Senators - Ben Sasse and Ted Cruz - say a "bloodbath" may well be coming. No kidding. The Republicans are also going to lose, as they did in 2018, scores of state legislative seats and chambers as the the nation moves towards redistricting state legislative seats. Worse yet, is the indelible stain Trumpism will leave on the GOP for a generation to come. We are entering a period of Democratic ascendency that will last for a couple decades, at least. It is not a given that the Republican Party survives.
That is what is coming.