Where do they go from here? The Republican Party in the age of Donald Trump

Where do they go from here? The Republican Party in the age of Donald Trump
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

To borrow a phrase from President-elect Donald Trump, "many people are saying" the Republican Party may have gained the White House and lost its soul after Tuesday's earthshaking election.

"The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on, perhaps soon to inscribe this: In 2016, Republicans won a ruinous triumph that convinced them that they can forever prosper by capturing an ever-larger portion of an ever-smaller portion of the electorate," as Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative writer George F. Will put it in the Washington Post.

Whether they supported the victor in the Republican primary or in his general election battle against Hillary Clinton — or both, or neither — the GOP has a new reality: Donald Trump is the party boss.

Will Trump remake Republicanism in his own image, starting by going after people who made what supporter Omarosa Manigault called his "enemies list"? Will the more moderate voices of the establishment continue trying to tame him and keep him on target? 

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Responses to the Trump victory range from full-on GOP existential crisis to what comes down to a "don't lower the lifeboats just yet" school of thought.

In the former group: Rick Wilson, a Florida-based strategist who initially supported Marco Rubio and later helped mount an anti-Trump campaign by backing independent candidate Evan McMullin.

"Trump ran on an explicitly statist, nationalist platform. If he governs that way, the conservative movement needs a new home," Wilson said Wednesday. "It has to answer the question of whether it's a conservative party or a Trumpian nationalist party."

Celebrating victory at the Trump-Pence election-night bash, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Republican consultant and daughter of a former presidential aspirant, unsurprisingly took a sunnier view of the future:

Source: YouTube

For those freaking out about the prospect of Trump dragging the GOP right (and perhaps right off a cliff), Kentucky media and political consultant Scott Jennings, former personal aide to President George W. Bush, suggested taking the long view:

We went through this in Kentucky in 2015. An outsider governor was elected after unexpectedly winning a GOP primary. And there was concern about how he would govern. One year later I don't know a Republican in Kentucky who is unhappy with Matt Bevin, and he has a terrific working relationship with the GOP legislative leadership. I expect the same for Trump, at least in the near term. There is plenty of agenda where he overlaps with McConnell and Ryan, and the voters have sent a clear message that the days of endlessly promising to do thing are over.

In sum, "The burden is on the entire GOP — Trump and Congress — to deliver results in this system that has been delivered them by America's working class and rural voters," Jennings told Mic. 

"Failure to capitalize on this full Republican control would be a political nightmare for anyone blamed for squandering it."

Similarly, Jessica Proud, a New York-based GOP strategist, said she expected Trump would follow through on top Republican priorities as president, including defeating ISIS, repealing Obamacare and spurring job growth, but noted he won't and can't do it alone. 

"There is a mandate on his agenda and he will set the tone, but Congress will play a critical role in helping to shape policy proposals," she said. 

"His business background suggests he will be focused on deals that will produce results rather than be a purist, and certainly his early outreach to [Sen. Chuck] Schumer is an indication of that."

Donald Trump is nothing if not a chameleon. As a Manhattan real estate wheeler-dealer, he openly consorted with and supported Democrats, including Clinton herself, before vaulting to the far right, and back, as a presidential contender. 

What he'll do next is anyone's guess. But as the GOP and the rest of the nation must now accept, after Jan. 20, he'll be doing it in the White House.