The big question is whether it took a Trump to make 2016 happen in the first place. Given the Republican Party’s struggle to build a national majority, was he the only candidate that could pull off a win? And if so, was his celebrity the X factor that made it possible? The fact that Republicans lost when Trump was not on the ballot is evidence in favor of the case.
If celebrity is what it takes, then there’s no Republican politician who can carry Trump’s mantle. No one with his or her hat obviously in the ring — neither Cruz nor Hawley, neither Tom Cotton nor Haley — has the juice. There are the Trump children, of course. But the Trump name doesn’t actually stand for success, and there’s no evidence yet that any of them can make the leap to winning votes for themselves.
Perhaps the next Trump, if there is one, will be another celebrity. Someone with a powerful and compelling persona, who traffics in fear and anger and hate. Someone who “triggers the libs” and puts on a show. Someone who already has an audience, who speaks for the Republican base as much as he speaks to them. Republican voters have already put a Fox News viewer into the White House. From there it’s just a short step to electing an actual Fox News personality.