Politicians are not known for decency or decorum, but typically they wait for a leader’s defeat before diving into the scrum for a successor. Not this time. Even before US President Donald Trump gets his chance at a second term, a battle has begun over where the Republican Party may turn after.
The reason for this pre-emptive conflict is the inevitable expiration of Trumpism itself. The president will sit atop the party so long as he remains in office, but he is building no intellectual foundation, no institutional infrastructure and no policy agenda to provide the basis for a political coalition once his singular personality eventually departs. As with an heirless monarch, all sides foresee the vacuum and vie to fill it.
In another era, a stable party apparatus that predated Mr Trump might be waiting in the wings. But of course, if that existed, the party would not have been levelled by the Trumpian earthquake. Instead, its strains and infirmities, so well exploited by Mr Trump, define the contours of arguments about how to rebuild. The fundamental question is this: what happens to a party beholden to free-market dogma when the market fails to deliver?