Is the Republican Party Dying, or Morphing?
America, you're watching the beginning of the end of the Republican Party
The beginning of the end of the Republican Party has started. On Friday, I told you the Republican Party is dying. Then, yesterday, Ross Douthat in the New York Times echoed my key point.Die? At this point I think that may be more Democrat wishfull thinking than reality. Unless you mean the death of the party as we know it. I think it's actually trying to find itself, and morph into something else:
Mine was that the Republican leaders in Washington would see the decline of Donald Trump as proof that they need do nothing to change. Like the Bourbons of France, they’d forget nothing and learn nothing.
On Sunday, Douthat wrote, “In an unhealthy system, the kind I suspect we inhabit, the Republicans will find a way to crush Trump without adapting to his message. In which case the pressure the Donald has tapped will continue to build — and when it bursts, the G.O.P. as we know it may go with it.”
Yes, exactly. The Republican Party is dying because the GOP in DC has gone corporate and K Street. They attack any Republicans who dare hold them to their promises. They’ve gone to war against Heritage Action for America, Club For Growth, the Madison Project, etc. They’ve blackballed any political consultant who does work for outsiders.
In short, the GOP has become so incestuous it continues to hemorrhage and will die. It cannot adapt because the key consultants it has shaping its future are wedded to the capital that comes from not changing.
It should be eye opening to the Republican leaders in Washinton that Ross Douthat and I have come to the same conclusion — they will not recognize the need to change and will therefore die.
The End of the Republican Party?
[...] I think I should clarify that I meant that “as we know it” to be the crucial wording. I don’t think the Republicans are about to literally go the way of the Whigs; a party that’s spent the Obama years gaining power in Congress and doing very well indeed at the state and local level isn’t likely to dissolve anytime soon.The Republicans need to unite in a coalition around core principles and issues that resonate with a majority of voters, that they can rally around. Instead it continues to fight with itself and remain fractured. If that continues, it could die eventually. But not today. Hopefully it will find itself and be reborn as something more viable and stronger.
But a party can exist as an entity, indeed a powerful entity, while also undergoing a kind of nervous breakdown, from which a new “self” eventually emerges. That happened to the Democrats beginning in 1968, with the gulf between George Wallace, Democrat-turned-independent, and George McGovern, Obama forerunner and landslide loser, illustrating the underlying identity crisis pretty well.
What’s happening to the Republican Party is different in many ways, of course. But what we saw in the 2012 primary — the attempted rejection of Mitt Romney by populists desperate for an alternative — and what we’re seeing now in the polls that show Trump and Ben Carson temporarily lapping the 2016 field are suggestive of a similarly-wide gap between the party as conceived of at the elite level (the party of Mitt and Jeb, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, the party of the old fiscal/social/hawkish conservative three-legged stool) and what its actual voters think the party ought to be.
And here the Trump phenomenon is particularly instructive, because it’s revealed the true complexity of Republican divisions in a way that now-Cain, now-Bachmann, now-Santorum quest for a right-wing not-Romney in 2012 did not. Over the last few election cycles we’ve become accustomed to a narrative of Republican civil war that pits the G.O.P. establishment against its base, and liberals especially have become fond of depicting the G.O.P.’s development as a simple-enough matter of a once-mainstream party allowing itself to be pulled steadily rightward by its extreme, revanchist voters and activists.
This narrative has always been too pat, but in current polling you can see some of the strongest evidence for it insufficiency: The Republican Party’s basic problem right now is that the party’s own voters really, really don’t like it, but more than that they dislike it for a wide variety of different reasons, in ways that don’t map neatly onto what we’re accustomed to thinking of as the Republican divisions of the past.
But what we see happening now is at the very least clear evidence that the right-of-center electorate is ripe to be split by a third party spoiler, or multiple such spoilers over the next few cycles, in which case the Republican losing streak in presidential elections could be easily extended from five of six to eight of nine. And electoral considerations aside, it’s also evidence that the percentage of Republican voters who want, as Newt Gingrich might say, a fundamentally different national-level G.O.P. than the one we have, is reaching a level where fundamental transformation might become inevitable.
Domenech has his fears about what this might betoken; I’m a little less pessimistic. But the reality is that none of us know. The Republican Party isn’t going anywhere. But what the Republican Party is actually going to be, come the presidential campaign of 2024, is a very open question.
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