I often see “Never Trump” Republicans wondering why the party seems to be stuck on Donald Trump, and why Republican leadership cannot seem to move on. The primary reason for this, of course, is that Republican voters still love Trump. You could dismiss this as Republican leaders being afraid of their own voters, but it is also a case of elected officials being responsive to the people who elected them.
So why is the Republican base still enamored of Trump, in a way that has not been the case with previous Republicans when they left office? The devotion to Trump is a reaction to two things: First, it is a reaction to the culture war waged by Democrats and the “woke” Leftist base against conservatives (especially cultural conservatives), moderates and even some other Leftists. Second, it is a reaction against Republicans who would not fight back against attacks on them or their supporters.
Furthermore, a wide swath of the conservative grassroots has equated not supporting Trump with not being conservative. There are times when that is right, and there are times when that is wrong, but Republicans are sabotaging themselves when they do not recognize that.
Are there Republicans who act as if they are part of a cult? Yes. I have condemned this mentality on many occasions. But if “Never Trump” Republicans really do want to move past Trump, they need to understand how Republicans see Trump and what Trump represents as a broader cultural symbol. Trump is an expression of wider cultural discontent against the elite and the establishment. If Republicans want to capture the Trump base for someone else, they need to show they are willing to fight.