Opinion | A Party in Exile Is the Best Hope for Anti-Trump Republicans


Until now, Republicans who opposed Mr. Trump could point to state and local politics, where non-MAGA Republicans — and, much more rarely, anti-MAGA Republicans — have won elections, sustaining a Republican rump faction that holds MAGA at arm’s length. Non-MAGA Republicans believed that the party would feel stung by MAGA’s record of regularly losing elections that Republicans ought to have won, including the loss of the presidency by an incumbent, control of the Senate in the 2020 election cycle and the fizzle in the 2022 midterms, when voters in race after race surgically excised extreme MAGA candidates.

Non-MAGA Republicans expected that the multiple indictments of Mr. Trump would discredit him in the eyes of G.O.P. primary voters or at least lead them to abandon him as a likely loser. They imagined that Mr. Trump’s increasingly unhinged and self-absorbed behavior would alienate his supporters. They supposed that Mr. Trump might lose the nomination if forced into a one-on-one race with a single strong contender. And they thought, if all else failed, that the Republican base might simply grow bored with the stale, repetitive and witless Trump show.

Those suppositions turned out to be wrong, and Ms. Haley’s loss to Mr. Trump in the Republican primaries has extinguished all of them. Mr. Trump will be crowned in July. He commands cultlike loyalty among his MAGA base. He has taken over the machinery of the Republican Party. His election to the White House in November would further consolidate his control of the party, but even if he is defeated, MAGA will not believe it lost fairly and therefore will not willingly relinquish its grip.

Which brings us back to the non-MAGA faction. With its paths blocked inside the party, it can still bring formidable people, resources and ideas to the task of defeating MAGA from the outside, as an exiled party.

What would this mean in practice? A G.O.P. in exile — the Free Republicans, as it were — can be a loose network of organizations, think tanks, politicians, consultants, donors and activists; it can have a more formal structure, with its own national committee, state chairs and staff. It might hold conventions, develop chapters and auxiliaries and approve a platform, or it might rely on a more decentralized strategy that supports and coordinates assorted efforts to build a bench of anti-MAGA talent and ideas. Regardless of how those tactical choices are made, four strategic principles should define the project.



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