Lindsey Graham famously warned in 2016, "If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed and we will deserve it."
If he was referring to the election that year, he was clearly wrong. But perhaps his prescience was further reaching.
Through the Trump presidency, the GOP have been moulded and shaped like a piece of clay, into the party of Donald Trump. There is not one conservative principle left standing on their empty platform.
This capitulation was driven in the main part by the fact that Trump was far more popular among Republican voters than congressional Republicans were. They understood that if they pushed back against Trump's violations of norms, ethics, and frankly the law, that they would feel the sting of a career ending tweet.
And now here we are. Trump has been voted out of office, leaving in his wake tens of millions of voters who doubt the integrity of his ouster. The Republican base has been fractured. There are those who still see Donald Trump as their guy, but there is also a large number of voters who abandoned Trump as they lost a taste for his disruption of American life, his obvious indifference to human suffering and his narcissistic preoccupations.
But unless impeachment prevents him from running in 2024, Donald Trump is probably the presumptive nominee for the GOP.
Every elected Republican now has to decide between one of three options:
1) Try to reclaim some sense of decency and respectability by rejecting Trump's anti-democratic narrative, his embrace of white supremacy and his flouting of norms and rules.
This would be an attempt to reshape the party back towards legitimacy, winning back moderate Republicans but losing a chunk of the MAGA base. We have already seen what happens to those such is Liz Cheney who try this.
2) Go all in for Donal Trump, even now. Even after all he's done.
Continue to kiss the ring, and accept that they will not be able to replace him as party head.
3) Try to hold on to the MAGA base by claiming support for Trump but quietly hoping he goes away so they can claim the spoils.
All of these options involve alienating and likely losing a significant section of registered Republicans in 2022.
And in all of this, the threat that Trump will start his own party of red hats, rallies and rabble rousing is forever in the background.
They made this happen. They allowed Trump to become the GOP and the GOP to become the party of Trump. The two systems now share organs and a blood supply.
My guess is more than a few of them are hoping that Trump is indicted and jailed for his crimes. It would remove the hardest of choices from in front of them.