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Despite Trump's sizable defeat, GOP isn't asking what went wrong

Republicans would likely benefit from real scrutiny about the party's many 2020 setbacks. But they're not inclined to even ask any questions.
Image: RNC in Cleveland 2016
Delegates pledge of allegiance.MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA

There's something to be said for post-election "autopsies." Once an election cycle has come and gone, it makes sense for party officials to take stock, acknowledge what worked, scrutinize what didn't, and prepare to apply those lessons going forward.

There's nothing especially partisan or ideological about this. As regular readers may recall, after Democrats had a successful cycle in 2012 -- a year in which Mitt Romney lost the presidential race by 5 million votes -- the Republican National Committee organized a massive post-mortem initiative, called the "Growth and Opportunity Project." After the party had far more success in 2014, the RNC launched a similar review effort.

But as the party comes to terms with what transpired in 2020, officials appear wholly uninterested in introspection. Politico reports today:

Democrats in Texas and New Hampshire are forming committees to examine the party's failings in last month's election. Less formal autopsies are underway in states across the country. But the party that lost the presidential election isn't soul-searching at all. For the final act of his showman-like presidency, Donald Trump has convinced the Republican Party that despite losing the White House by 7 million votes — and despite seeing five states flip in 2020 — things could hardly be better inside the GOP.

The article went on to note the irony of the circumstances: "In one of the more surreal role reversals in modern post-presidential election history, the winning party nationally is poring over its congressional and legislative losses, while the party that lost the White House isn't."

To be sure, Democrats would likely benefit from an after-action report and real scrutiny about the party's many setbacks. Dems hoped to make significant gains in state legislatures, and their failures to do so will have dramatic effects over the course of the next decade.

The party also saw its U.S. House majority shrink to a handful of seats, while losing several U.S. Senate races Democrats expected to be much more competitive. Just as importantly, Dems should better understand Latino voters backing the GOP in greater numbers, despite Trump's anti-Latino racism and willingness to lock Latin American children in cages.

But Republicans have some questions that need answers, too. Why did their incumbent president lose in a landslide? Why are traditional battleground states such as Colorado and Virginia suddenly safe "blue" territory? Why were Democrats able to flip five states this year -- including two traditional GOP strongholds -- while Republicans failed to flip any? Why does the gender gap keep growing? Why is the education gap roughly as large? How will the party keep suburbs from slipping further away?

How is it that Democrats may soon control the White House, the U.S. House, and the U.S. Senate, despite the GOP's down-ballot successes? Why has the Republican Party lost the presidential popular vote in seven of the last eight election cycles -- a feat no major party has pulled off since the dawn of the United States' two-party system nearly two centuries ago?

These aren't easy questions to answer, but they are also questions party officials don't want to ask.

Stanley Grot, a district-level Republican Party chair in Michigan, a state where the GOP fell short at the presidential and U.S. Senate level, told Politico, 'As far as I'm concerned, everything's great."

We've all heard the expression, "The first step is admitting you have a problem." Six weeks after the 2020 elections, it's a step Republicans aren't prepared to take.