Trump’s failure may not only cause long-term damage to the Republican Party, but the fracture could be so deep the two factions could break apart for good, with anti-Trump conservatives on one side and the pro-Trump forces on the other.
“My basic belief is that despite a desire to rebuild a big tent, either the Trump faction… will have to leave or be forced out, or those of us who think that the GOP should actually stand for something and nominate decent people should set up a new party,” said Eliot Cohen, a former counselor of the State Department during the Bush administration.
Donald Trump spent the 48 hours following his debate performance in St. Louis escalating a war of words against his fellow Republicans. Rather than focusing his fire on opponent Hillary Clinton, he attacked GOP lawmakers who have disavowed or distanced themselves from him. McCain was “foul-mouthed.” House Speaker Paul Ryan was a “very weak and ineffective leader.”
There’s a sense of sobriety in the Never Trumpers who opposed Trump as the nominee months before he became the party’s official pick in July. “Most of the fellow Republicans I know are reacting the same way they’d react to a horrific car crash on the interstate,” quipped Dan Drezner, a GOP commentator who teaches at Tufts University.
But they also feel a slight—an ever-so-slight—twinge of satisfaction for being right all along.