[Trump] will almost certainly go down to a devastating defeat, either in the general election or -- God help us -- as the worst president in American history.Sorry, David -- there isn't going to be a "post-Trump era" for the GOP, if that means a period of time when all previous assumptions are questioned and everyone is searching for new answers. The GOP and the conservative movement don't build their identities on presidential nominees -- they certainly didn't do that in 2008 and 2012, when a lot of conservatives and Republicans didn't even like nominees the party was said to have "rallied around."
At that point the G.O.P. will enter ... the revolution phase. During [such] moments you get a proliferation of competing approaches, a willingness to try anything. People ask different questions, speak a different language, congregate around a new paradigm that is incommensurate with the last.
That’s where the G.O.P. is heading. So this is a moment of anticipation. The great question is not, Should I vote for Hillary or sit out this campaign? The great question is, How do I prepare now for the post-Trump era?
Conservatism doesn't build its identity on presidential candidates. It builds its identity on a series of hatreds and grievances, some temporary, others ongoing. Yes, there's a gradual evolution, so Cleek's Law is accurate:
today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today: updated daily.But there isn't going to be a revolution -- certainly not one brought about by the collapse of a presidential campaign -- because the resentments developed and accumulated after Trump will be added to a solid foundation of old resentments that predate Trump. The GOP's true leaders aren't politicians, they're the media figures who stoke these resentments. (That's why, even in the midst of the war over Trump, the ratings at Fox News are still strong.)
Conservatives today may be battling over Trump, but they're united in their resentment of students who allegedly feel unsafe in the presence of pro-Trump graffiti and trans people who want to use public restrooms where they feel comfortable and President Obama doing the tango after the Brussels terrorist attacks. That's a list based on current headlines. Looking back on old favorites, they're united in their hatred of Hillary Clinton and "political correctness" and illegal immigration and whatever the hell they think sharia law is. And I'm just scratching the surface.
The one change I can imagine in the future is that the style of conservatism will simply have more Trump in it. More and more candidates will praise waterboarding rather than "enhanced interrogation," and will be open about identifying the ethnic groups they resent.
But the GOP will still be the GOP. It will be the same old grievance party it's been for years.