“If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it,” Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted on May 16, 2016.
The South Carolinian’s prediction didn’t age well at first. Come January 2017, the Republican Party was in the catbird seat. With Trump’s upset win over the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, it controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. Trump would immediately be able to appoint a Supreme Court justice, too, giving GOP appointees an edge on the high court. Trump seemed to have cleared out the last vestiges of the Democrats’ New Deal coalition and built a new party that might withstand demographic changes expected to favor liberals. Graham, meanwhile, had a change of heart and became one of Trump’s noisiest cheerleaders and closest allies.
Since then, the Republicans have lost nearly everything. Backlash to Trump cost the party control of the House in 2018, sending Nancy Pelosi back to the speakership and Paul Ryan, once seen as the future of the GOP, off to retirement and corporate-board service. Two years later, Trump lost the presidency—becoming the first one-term president in 30 years and only the third in a century. And now Republicans seem to have lost control of the Senate after going 0–2 in runoffs in Georgia, which was a reliably red state before Trump. Its Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, tried to embrace Trump-style populism, but failed to replicate the president’s results.