Commentary: Future of GOP depends on Trump stepping aside

The Republican Party is struggling to find its identity after the Trump presidency. House Republicans are holding a retreat in Orlando, Florida, this week to plot a way forward. 

Trump was not invited to the retreat, but he clearly hovers like a colossus over the future of the Republican Party. I’ve written previously that Republicans can’t win with Trump as the party’s standard-bearer, but they also can’t win without him.

If Trump really wants to help Republican candidates take control of the House and Senate in 2022, and win the presidency in 2024, he will announce he’s not running in 2024. Then he will retreat to a role of supporting Republican candidates, encouraging his devoted base to get out and vote, while championing conservative policies.

That, of course, is not going to happen because Trump looks out for No. 1 – himself – not what’s best for the party or its candidates.

I note these things as someone who voted twice for Trump. I have written many times that I don’t like Trump’s narcissistic personality, his petty name-calling and demeanor, but I did like a lot of his policies, especially those that created the best economy, the lowest unemployment, in many decades.

But Trump needs now to accept his defeat. He can go on believing the outcome was unfair, if he so desires, but it is entirely counter-productive to continue to loudly proclaim that victory was stolen from him and to criticize all Republicans who disagree with that assertion. He must stop making it all about himself and more about conservative principles and the party.

To win the next two election cycles, Republicans need Trump’s base – especially for the 2024 presidential election. They can’t win without it. If Trump wants respect as an elder statesman, he must tone down, be a team player, and stop attacking other Republicans.

On the other hand, Republican never-Trumpers like Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, and a number of fringe anti-Trump groups that call themselves conservatives or Republicans, need to stop the attacks on Trump and his followers. 

Trump is gone, and it only hurts the party and its candidates for these anti-Trump GOP groups to continue to be obsessed with him. They are being just as divisive and irresponsible as Trump is. Their goal mostly seems to be raising money for themselves, not unifying the GOP or supporting its candidates.

While the Republicans fight among themselves, the Democrats have lurched far to the left, leaving average Americans behind. Liberal Democrats live in an East Coast/West Coast/big city/media/Hollywood/big tech bubble and they no longer understand or identify with working class voters. They live in an echo chamber, reinforcing each other, while talking past people of the heartland. 

Their zealous pursuit of higher taxes, reparations, D.C. statehood, disrespect of police, race baiting, court packing, federalizing elections, unlimited free money, the sins of “whiteness” and so forth, is repelling average Americans. Voters are seeing rising crime, dysfunctional immigration and an obsession with wokeness and a cancel culture hostile to traditional values.

The problems of the two parties may offset each other. It may come down to the quality of candidates in the various races.  

The GOP has some excellent presidential prospects who can unite the party, especially Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. But only if Trump stays out of the way.