As conservatives around the country wake up to the new reality of a Trumpist GOP, shell-shocked Republicans are still coming to grips with the implications. In one camp you have the eager team players, gamely digging in to do combat with Hillary and support the nominee no matter what. In the other you have the #NeverTrump crowd, steadfastly resisting calls to stand down in the name of party unity. But by far the biggest group doesn’t quite know what to think. They didn’t support Trump, they’re nervous about him as the standard bearer, but he beat the odds, right? If conventional wisdom was wrong then, who is to say it’s right now?
To them I say: Stop it. Stop talking yourself into it. Conventional wisdom was wrong precisely because it didn’t heed the polls. It expected voter sentiments to change and Republicans to “get serious” as the election approached. As it turns out, they were serious all along. Trump tapped into something, all right. But the tide of grievance, resentment, and white identity politics he rode to the nomination is a drop in the general-election bucket.
But (you might say) favorability isn’t static, nor are polls. He started out underwater even with Republicans. And indeed, Trump did turn around his numbers in short order — first by demonstrating that this wasn’t just a reality-TV stunt, then by flouting conventional norms and political taboos. The problem is that none of this happened in a vacuum.