But since prediction is often just an expression of desire, I’ll tell you what I want to happen. Even though the party richly deserved some sort of punishment, I didn’t want the G.O.P. to be destroyed by its affiliation with Trump, because I’m one of those Americans who don’t want to be ruled by liberalism in its current incarnation, let alone whatever form is slowly being born. But now that the party has survived four years of Trumpism without handing the Democrats a congressional supermajority, and now that Amy Coney Barrett is on the Supreme Court and Joe Manchin, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney will hold real power in the Senate, whatever happens in Georgia — well, now I do want Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to lose these races, mostly because I don’t want the Republican Party to be permanently ruled by Donald J. Trump.

Obviously, a runoff-day defeat won’t by itself prevent Trump from winning the party’s nomination four years hence or bestriding its internal culture in the meantime. (Indeed, for some of his supporters it would probably confirm their belief that the presidential election was stolen — because look, the Democrats did it twice!) But the sense that there is a real political cost to slavishly endorsing not just Trump but also his fantasy politics, his narrative of stolen victory, seems a necessary precondition for the separation that elected Republicans need to seek — working carefully, like a bomb-dismantling team — between their position and the soon-to-be-former president’s, if they don’t want him to just claim the leadership of their party by default.