Republicans have a lot to be thankful for. In the years since George W. Bush their party has staggered around without a governing ideology, veering from one style of fantasy politics to another, and twice nominated a ridiculously unfit reality-television star for the presidency. Yet through it all the party has never collapsed, never fallen more than a little distance out of power and almost always retained a certain capacity to block the Democrats, which is the only thing its constituencies can agree on.
This pattern seems unlikely to be broken even if Biden’s poll numbers bounce back across 2022 and 2023. In that scenario Republicans will still probably narrowly recapture the House of Representatives, returning to the position that they held immediately after last November’s election — as a minority coalition, but a large one rather than a rump, which thanks to its structural advantages can always hope to hold at least part of Congress and ride a few lucky breaks into the White House.
But in a way, that advantage is also the core Republican weakness, and the party’s good fortune in avoiding profound punishment for all its follies is the reason those follies will probably continue. The problems in the Democratic Party — the danger that its progressive turn is costing it conservative-leaning minority votes, even as anti-Trump suburban voters could swing back to the G.O.P. — create an opportunity for Republicans to win real popular majorities at the national level, on the scale of Bush in 2004 if not quite Ronald Reagan. But the fact that they don’t need to be a majority coalition to exercise a certain power means that they’re more likely to choose badly, and stay roughly where they are.