Plenty of Republicans were not in the mood to celebrate on election night. About 200 gathered at the Lincoln Restaurant in Washington DC, where they had hoped they could watch a heavy defeat for Donald Trump and begin the process of returning their party to its centre-Right origins. Instead, people began drifting home before midnight.
Since then, Republicans of the Never Trump variety have had to wrestle with what comes next, questioning whether the party of Lincoln can ever recover and what their place in it might be. People like Meghan Milloy, who has been a Republican since her school years but who campaigned against her own party by helping set up ‘Republican Women for Hillary’. ‘A lot of folks were in shock,’ she said. ‘There wasn’t much talking for the first few days. People were giving each other space.’
Most had assumed a defeat for Trump would mean a chance for the Republican Party to regroup and rebuild in its original image. Instead, her group has had to begin the process of repositioning, renaming itself ‘Republican Women for America’ and setting itself the task of becoming a watchdog. They plan to ensure Trump sticks to some of his promises – such as not overturning the Supreme Court decision legalising gay marriage – and will campaign against his less palatable pledges, such as deporting as many as 11 million immigrants. ‘We are going to work to move the party more towards the centre,’ she said. ‘We have women in our group that have expressed interest in running for office to prove that the Republican Party is not just about Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. It is about people who aren’t racist and who aren’t misogynist.’
The approach is similar to some of the party’s high-profile internal critics.