But this election confirms that, contra certain Trump enthusiasts, the #MAGA era in right-wing politics is essentially a defensive era, in which G.O.P. leverages a fortunate Electoral College win and an advantage in the Senate to fill the courts and delay liberal ambitions for a time — but fails, conspicuously, to reap political rewards from the current economic expansion and to build an actual popular majority.
Instead, after its nominee traded a lot of suburban voters for stronger working-class support in 2016, the Trump-era Republican Party has continued to hemorrhage suburbanites while also giving back some of those Midwestern, blue-collar gains. The political strategy for Republicans after Trump’s victory should have been obvious: Seal the working-class realignment with a dose of economic populism, hold the suburbs by dialing back the Trumpian excesses. Instead the president let congressional Republicans have their way on policy, and they let him be himself in other ways — which makes the Democratic sweep in the House exactly the outcome that both the soon-departing Paul Ryan and the president deserve.
And to the extent that conservatives — normal and NeverTrump alike — are willing to live with that outcome so long as they hold the Senate, it’s what we deserve as well. There is no conservative governing agenda at the moment; there is only a desire not to be ruled by liberalism.