The “teach them a lesson” model of voting seems to repeat and enlarge the mistake that we #NeverTrumpers made for decades before: thinking of politics entirely in terms of elite opinions and our own insular debates. If you’re mainly concerned with the battles between different factions of conservative elites, then, yes, a really bruising loss might hobble some of the Trumpiest competitors. But elites were not the problem in 2016, and they aren’t now; the party’s establishment hated Trump, and to varying degrees, they all resisted his rise. Ordinary voters prevailed. It was to them, not Trump, that the politicians ultimately capitulated.
For those voters, a bad loss at best will stigmatize the man, not the inchoate populism he harnessed. At worst, it will mean the party loses all its moderate seats, leaving the Trumpiest faction even more firmly in charge of a shrunken party. And whatever happens, the conservative movement won’t seek advice, or leadership, from people who were actively rooting for Republicans to lose everything.
Myself, I’m voting against Trump with no hopes of a Free-market Restoration, but only for the mundane reason that he isn’t fit to hold the presidency — because of character faults I’ve been listing for five years and am too tired to list again. However, I consider Biden fit only in comparison, and I like his running mate, who lacks any instinct for bipartisan comity, still less. I didn’t approve of what the Obama administration got up to when they had both White House and Congress, and expect to disapprove even more strongly now that Democratic partisans are openly noodling about court-packing and adding states. Thus, I’d prefer that they win as little power as possible — just enough to save the Republic from Trump, and no more.