Trumpism after Trump

A few prominent Trumpistas do make a neat ideological fit with Trumpism as it might exist going forward — border hawks like Jeff Sessions and Jan Brewer, resentful populists like Sarah Palin, media bomb-throwers like Ann Coulter and the remaining Breitbart crew. But mostly he’s surrounded by has-been politicians looking for a second life, media personalities looking for an audience, and grifters looking to cash in (but I repeat myself).

So when Trump is no longer a candidate for president, Sean Hannity will probably morph back into a partisan hatchet man, Ben Carson will go back to his speaking circuit, Newt Gingrich will find some new ideological coat to wear and Chris Christie will take a job chauffeuring Trump’s limo. Maybe they’ll all rally again if he runs again in 2020. But Trumpism will need new leaders and a real activist base if it’s going to be more than a tendency or a temptation going forward.

Then second, even if Trumpism finds the leadership and foot soldiers to fight a longer civil war, it’s very hard to see a classic realignment following. That’s because it’s hard to imagine either Republican faction — the Trumpist populist nationalists or the movement conservatives who currently oppose him — swinging into the Democratic coalition the way George Wallace’s voters eventually joined the G.O.P. and Rockefeller Republicans joined the Democrats…

So a Trumpian schism probably wouldn’t lead to a full realignment, a real re-sorting of the parties. Instead it would likely just create a lasting civil war within American conservatism, forging two provisional mini-parties — one more nationalist and populist, concentrated in the Rust Belt and the South, the other more like the Goldwater-to-Reagan G.O.P, concentrated in the high plains and Mountain West — whose constant warfare would deliver the presidency to the Democrats time and time again.