If you want to mark the end of hope for US democracy, last weekend was as good a date as any. Both Trump and the Republican National Committee made unequivocal commitments to supporting the insurrection.
The response, on the Republican side, was much the same as in every previous step along the road to dictatorship. The usual handful of serving politicians, like Romney and Hogan (MD governor) objected, as did sometimes-Trumper Mitch McConnell, but none (not even Cheney and Kinzinger, the targets of the censure) even hinted at changing parties. A rather larger group of retired Repubs signed a statement, again failing to urge rejection of their party. Most current Repubs dodged the issue, claiming not to have read the news for a while. And, a couple of days later, it’s just about forgotten.
The result is that the overthrow of democracy has become, as far as the political culture is concerned, a routine issue of disagreement between the parties. In these circumstances, the par outcome is that the opposition party will do well in the midterm elections, and all the evidence suggests that 2022 won’t be an exception. So, unless effective legislation to prevent election subversion is passed this year, it never will be. It seems highly unlikely that reforms to the Electoral Count Act, if they pass, will be enough.
To look a little on the bright side, assuming Trump returns as president in 2024 (with or without a legitimate majority in the Electoral College) what’s the best chance of a more or less free election in 2028? Looking at the end of similar regimes, I’d say it’s a succession crisis.
Trump will be term limited in 2028. I expect, as is usual in such cases, he will either try to get around the limit or nominate a family member (probably Don Jr or Ivanka) to take his place. For ambitious Republicans, this will be the last chance to grab the presidency for themselves. The resulting struggle might lead some to see a return to democracy as their best chance.
Alternatively, Trump might die or become incapacitated. He’ll be 82 in 2028. A lot would depend on the circumstances, but if he died in office, his vice-president would become president and would then have to fight it out with the junior Trumps and other contenders. Again, anything might happen.