For nearly a half-decade, Republicans became accustomed to saying one thing and thinking another. The impeachment vote was the last, best chance to break decisively with Mr. Trump. Yet once again most Republican lawmakers couldn’t bring themselves to do it. Mr. Trump still seems to haunt them, to instill fear in them. More than that, however: He has become them, weaving himself into their minds and communities so seamlessly that they are no longer capable of distinguishing their own moral sensibilities and boundaries from his, as they might once have done. After the disgraceful impeachment vote, the task for Republicans hoping to separate themselves from the Trump years, which was already hard, if not impossible, became harder still.
So for conservatives who are longing for a responsible political home and for those who believe healthy conservative parties are vital to the survival of democracy, what can be done to salvage the Republican Party?
To begin with, it needs leaders who are willing to say that something has gone very, very wrong. They don’t have to dwell on it, or make it the focus of their efforts every minute, but the next generation of Republican leaders cannot pretend that the last few years were politics as they ought to be. They need to acknowledge that a sickness set in and take steps to cure it.