In short, there is almost nothing the modern GOP can do. There is no principal this party, particularly as led by Trump, is capable of defending. The one thing it can do, beyond passing tax cuts, is deprive progressives of unified control of government and civil society. Given how unpopular some GOP policy goals are, I suspect that this may be the only reason Republicans continue to win office.

If Republicans can’t do anything useful with political power, they can at least occupy elective offices as a sour reminder that the rest of the governing institutions are resented and lack democratic legitimacy. And, in exchange for the perks of the job — great federal health-care benefits, the insider information that leads them to make such profitable decisions with their investment portfolios, and the illusory feeling of being important — they can serve as human shields in the culture war. Being what they are and representing who they do, they draw fire that would otherwise be unloaded on the remaining conservative institutions and citizens.

If honesty were the object, Republican congressional candidates’ pitch could be, “Elect us, and let the media investigate and resent our existence, rather than hounding you directly.” With us in office, the organized left will dedicate slightly less energy and fewer resources to smashing Chick-fil-A, Catholic hospitals, Evangelical colleges, and whatever it is the Mormons have come up with as an alternative to the Boy Scouts. Trump’s argument for reelection could be, “As long as I’m here, they will spend their time hating my tweets and trying to remove me from my job, and they will have less time and attention to spend hating your tweets and trying to remove you from your job as a mid-level administrator, high-school civics teacher, or car-wash professional.”