It appears Trump is going to lose, and the best we can hope for is for the GOP to hold on to both houses of Congress.
The Trumpers have nobody to blame but Trump. He not only failed to assemble a winning coalition, he did not even try. Yes, he widened the base but it is not enough. It may be surprising that this office requires some sense of diplomacy, but when you start off attacking every Republican who has actually won his/her election, many repeatedly, and had to govern with a divided Congress, a biased media and an uncompromising president, you are destroying allies quicker than you make them.
It matters little whether he loses by a little or a lot. He should have won it by a lot since he is opposed by the most corrupt and objectionable candidate the Democrats could muster. Any loss against Clinton should be humiliating.
Before Trump there was a divide in the GOP between the social conservatives and the constitutional/ free market conservative, but they united to elect Reagan and the Bushes. Now the divide has shifted between the populists and the intellectuals. The social conservatives have made a Devil’s bargain with the populist justified only by the revulsion they feel towards Clinton. The intellectual conservatives have largely abandoned Trump altogether.
The populists, fueled by the right wing ratings mongers, were convinced that the establishment Republicans, which apparently means any Republican who has won an election and actually governed, were as bad as the Democrats. Their refusal to support any of the candidates who had won elections makes them supreme hypocrites for demonizing and threatening those who refuse to support Donald. They are sacrificing the good or the better for the ideal.
Will the Republicans learn the right lessons from this debacle?
One lesson would be to exercise better control of the nominating process. No more debates with 2 minute responses better suited to reality television. Perhaps some basic vetting of the candidates before they are ever allowed on the stage would be in order. Perhaps they should learn from their adversaries the need for super delegates. The framers of the Constitution knew that democracy required limits; the party leaders should also be aware of the limits of an unrestrained democratic nomination process.
The free market and intellectual conservatives will think that the rejection of their views caused the loss and the social conservatives will think the same of their views and we will return to the previous fragile coalition.
But Trump did prove that there is a group that feels largely unrepresented by either party. The GOP must find a way to connect with those left behind in the stagnant economy without sacrificing the principles. This is a tall order and takes a special kind of leader. I am not sure who this will be but it clearly is not Donald Trump.