What happened? Trump happened. Even more ominously, among voters 44 and younger — the people who will form the electorate of the future — Gillespie lost by an astounding 30 points. In the New Jersey governor’s race, that divide was even more profound: Among voters 44 and younger, the Republican there lost by 36 points.
That’s the kind of showing that makes it very, very difficult to rebuild a political party. There’s just no future in that.
Although the Republican base and many of its elected officials are clearly with Trump at the moment, campaign professionals and some clear-eyed conservatives recognize the danger. They still hold out hope of somehow separating the party’s fortunes from those of its current leader, of finding a future fork in the road that will lead them away from the destructive, divisive brand of politics that Trump exemplifies.
There’s only one feasible way that happens, one path by which that divorce can be achieved, and it is illuminated by what happened in Virginia. The only path that leads to a more responsible, sober Republican Party, a party that might be capable of governing in a way that this version is not, that allows its leaders to lead instead of having their actions dictated by talk-radio entertainers and Fox News, is through resounding defeat.
There is no path but through fire.