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Opinion: Can the GOP find its way in the post-Trump wilderness?

Dennis Lennox

Republicans once again find themselves wandering the political wilderness after first losing the White House and then majority in the all-powerful U.S. Senate.

The GOP is in a situation not seen since the 2008 tidal wave that swept Barack Obama into the presidency.

Some voices deny this by pointing to successes in 2010 as proof that there is no such thing as a permanent minority. However, this analysis denies reality.

Ignoring all of Trump’s faults, his America First platform offered a much bigger tent, writes Lennox.

Any honest observer will acknowledge that Republicans didn’t win in 2010. Rather, it was the now-extinct Tea Party that achieved victory.

In fact, the GOP has never fully recovered from Obama, who reinvigorated a realignment of both political parties that remains underway today.

Outgoing President Donald Trump is the most visible manifestation of this realignment. He only won in 2016 because a majority of the voters in the nominating primaries and caucuses realized they did not believe in the Republicanism of swamp creatures and Conservative Inc.

It would be political suicide to dismiss these voters by whitewashing Trump and reverting back to a failed playbook. Instead, the powers that be within the Republican Party should convene a Congress of Vienna or Council of Nicaea to ensure the party resonates as much with Cracker Barrel customers as it does with shoppers at Whole Foods.

Even more troubling is the fact that basic Electoral College math makes it incredibly difficult for the GOP to win.

There is not a single blue state trending red. What were once reliably red states are now either toss-up purple-trending-blue or already ensconced in the Democratic column before the first votes are tallied. Think Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico and Virginia.

Yes, it is true that the formerly quintessential battleground states of Florida and Ohio have trended red, but simply carrying those two states is no longer enough when all four senators from Arizona and Georgia are now Democrats.

It also doesn’t help that Republicans fail to compete in New York and California. Not only does this sideline millions of center-right voters, but it has disastrous down-ballot consequences.

The first order of business is the development of a 50-state strategy. Actually, it needs to be 56 states as Washington’s incoming Democratic majority could extend statehood to the District of Columbia and some or all of the five territories, including Puerto Rico.

Right now, there are more than a dozen states in which the GOP barely exists; either because the party struggles to get elected as dog catchers or it is so dominant that no real money is spent on organizing. This must change.

National parties only exist to win a national governing majority. This, by definition, requires big tent appeal, which is all the more reason why Republicans need their equivalent of a Congress of Vienna or Council of Nicaea.

Ignoring all of Trump’s faults, his America First platform offered a much bigger tent than "Never Trumpers" admit.

In the hands of a more capable messenger and more capable party it could once again lead Republicans out of the wilderness and into the promised land. Hopefully, that journey will not take 40 years.

Dennis Lennox is a political commentator and public affairs consultant from Michigan. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.