First, there is no Trump movement as yet; there is only Trump himself, his brand and his cult of personality, plus a parade of opportunists and hangers-on. This makes the Trump phenomenon very different from the Goldwater and McGovern candidacies, which were boosted by pre-existing movements on the right and left....Absolutely, and for good reason: Members of the right-wing rank-and-file just want someone or something to hate, and they're not picky: Show them a clip of George W. Bush standing on the 9/11 rubble with a bullhorn and they'll cheer. Show them a clip of Trump denouncing W for lying about Iraq WMDs and they'll cheer. They don't know what they believe. They just want enemies. They want an angry champion who seems conservative and who appears to have the strength to kick the asses of those enemies, whoever the hell they are this week.
Maybe a Trump movement is struggling toward self-consciousness, and in four to eight years it will be fully formed. But for now there aren’t Trump-like candidates challenging Republican politicians insufficiently committed to his cause (this has been a pretty easy year for incumbents, in fact), nor is there a Trumpish version of the netroots poised to be a player in Republican politics in 2018 or 2020....
So when Trump is no longer a candidate for president, Sean Hannity will probably morph back into a partisan hatchet man, Ben Carson will go back to his speaking circuit, Newt Gingrich will find some new ideological coat to wear and Chris Christie will take a job chauffeuring Trump’s limo. Maybe they’ll all rally again if he runs again in 2020. But Trumpism will need new leaders and a real activist base if it’s going to be more than a tendency or a temptation going forward.
Douthat considers the possibility that there might be an ongoing Trump movement, and rejects it.
... a Trumpian schism probably wouldn’t lead to a full realignment, a real re-sorting of the parties. Instead it would likely just create a lasting civil war within American conservatism, forging two provisional mini-parties -- one more nationalist and populist, concentrated in the Rust Belt and the South, the other more like the Goldwater-to-Reagan G.O.P, concentrated in the high plains and Mountain West -- whose constant warfare would deliver the presidency to the Democrats time and time again.Maybe that will be the split -- but how different is that from the coalition the GOP has successfully sustained for the past 35-plus years, a coalition that's still holding together in congressional, state, and local elections? The defeat of Eric Cantor notwithstanding, Republicans voters were more willing to vote for candidates the party establishment put up for them in 2014 than they were in 2010; gone were loose cannons such as Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Carl Paladino.
I think the Establishment will just pick up a few Trump talking points, dilute them, then teach the usual candidates how to sell them effectively. And I think the rubes will just go along. The GOP will be just fine in future downballot elections.
The only question, in 2020, is which crazy extremist will hijack the presidential nominating process, and either steal the nomination or push the nominee too far to the right to win the only kind of election in which Democratic voters actually show up. I don't know who that will be, but it'll be someone buffoonish and awful. (Maybe it'll just be Ted Cruz.) But apart from that, the GOP will painlessly reunite, and be just fine.