While President-elect Joe Biden is working on his transition to the presidency, the Republican Party is in its own transition. Soon it will be out of power, perhaps retaining control of the Senate but still being the secondary player in Washington. So how is its transition going?

It’s madness.

Here’s some of what’s going on:

  • Not only does President Trump refuse to accept that he lost the election, on Wednesday evening he delivered what The Post described as “an astonishing 46-minute video rant filled with baseless allegations of voter fraud and outright falsehoods in which he declared the nation’s election system ‘under coordinated assault and siege’ and argued that it was ‘statistically impossible’ for him to have lost to President-elect Joe Biden.”
  • Trump is now seriously talking about running for president again in 2024, and terrified Republican politicians, many of whom are planning their own presidential bids, feel it necessary to express their support for the idea.
  • A Wednesday hearing in the Michigan legislature on alleged voting irregularities went viral when it featured testimony from a series of lunatic conspiracy theorists, culminating with a now-internet-famous alleged whistleblower who worked at an election software company. Her allegations of manipulated votes were so nutty that even the wildly conspiratorial Rudolph W. Giuliani — he of the leaking hair dyeseemed to try to get her to rein it in as he sat next to her.
  • In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit demanding that the state’s certified election results be thrown out and the election be determined by the Republican-run legislature; Giuliani is urging Trump supporters to pressure other state legislatures to overrule their voters as well.
  • Conservative media outlets have enthusiastically joined in the effort to claim that the election was fraudulent and Trump was the rightful winner.
  • Republicans in Georgia are increasingly worried that, while they want Trump to keep their voters enraged over fictional voter fraud in the November election, he might unintentionally convince them that they shouldn’t bother voting in the January Senate runoffs. On Wednesday, prominent Republican lawyers who have filed suits on Trump’s behalf held a rally in Georgia at which they demanded that the Republican governor be locked up and told supporters to boycott the runoff.
  • Michael Flynn — the former general, national security adviser, and unhinged conspiracy theorist who was just granted a presidential pardon — has literally called on Trump to impose martial law in order to reverse the results of the election.

Do you think these people are going to become more reasonable once Biden takes office? Not on your life.

Over the next four years the Republican Party will be a roiling cauldron of derangement, always skating the line that separates the merely clownish from the dangerous and even violent. It’ll make the tea party years look sedate and restrained.

That experience shows us how the new Republican opposition might take shape. The tea party movement emerged organically soon after President Barack Obama took office, but it was quickly channeled and elevated by elite Republican institutions, especially Fox News (which promoted it aggressively) and groups, such as the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, that provided guidance and support.

From the beginning, the tea party was unruly and potentially threatening to Republican officeholders, since it produced primary challenges from the right that ousted some established members of Congress. The reaction of just about every Republican was to try to ride the tea party tiger without getting eaten. It sometimes forced them into politically problematic places — like the government shutdown of 2013 — but it also kept the base’s energy high and helped them win the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.

How will that process play out this time? Every force on the right will push it in the direction of being crazier.

As extreme as the tea party was, it was nothing compared to the QAnon-inflected hysteria that now grips the GOP. Tea partyers believed that Obama was born in Kenya; significant parts of today’s Republican Party believe that Obama and other Democrats are Satan-worshiping, child-sex-trafficking pedophile cannibals.

While 2020 saw the party nominate a bunch of QAnon supporters — one of whom will be a member of the House — 2022 could see a wave of these nutballs elected to Congress. Once they get there, they’ll pull the party not just further to the right but to places that will make the burn-it-all-down philosophy of the tea party seem like the height of responsible governance.

Just as establishment Republicans used to say, “I’m a tea partyer, too! Please don’t hurt me!,” in the coming years they’ll keep trying to demonstrate that they’re as deranged as their party’s base, maintaining the fantasy that the election was stolen and indulging every new conspiracy theory that finds purchase in the fevered minds of 2024 primary voters.

And of course, the biggest difference will be the continuing presence of Trump himself, who will ensure that the opposition won’t ever calm down.

While he might have a change of heart, at this point it looks unlikely that Trump will merely retire to Mar-a-Lago and fill his days playing golf. He’ll keep saying he might run again, so the media and the party keep paying attention to him. As a consequence he’ll retain his position as leader of the GOP, shaping its agenda, keeping it focused on bitter attacks and conspiracy theories, and receiving the fealty of every ambitious Republican.

For a long time, we believed that if Trump lost the 2020 election, we’d be able to get back to normal; politics might be contentious, but it wouldn’t be so relentlessly, unceasingly bonkers. We won’t be so lucky.

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The MAGA march on D.C. showed Trump supporters are not a monolith, but their dedication to the president is singular. (The Washington Post)

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