Trump is different, of course. He’s not going to slink quietly away from the political scene. He will be raising a ruckus on Twitter and beyond, and will still have a loyal cadre of allies willing to promote his divisive messages even out of power. He’s even toyed with the idea of starting his own media company.
But even though Trump doesn’t follow the traditional political playbook, the politics of the Trump era have been awfully predictable. After winning the 2016 election, Republicans have been routed in nearly every election since. They’ve lost control of the House. They’re on track right now for a political shellacking, at risk of being shut out of power entirely in Washington.
If Republicans want to win elections into the future in a diversifying America, they’re going to need to keep some distance from the president. They’re not suicidal. In the Trump era, they’ve been making the amoral but strategically sound judgment that there’s no way they can survive without maintaining a good relationship with the president. Just look at the careers of apostates like Jeff Flake or Mark Sanford to see what happened to Republicans who disagree with Trump. On the other hand, they haven’t won many swing-state elections with him, either.