Day 31: Republican Party Chaos

A serious fissure (Hawaii), © 2016 Susan Barsy
Today the signs of institutional chaos within the Republican Party are growing.  The fragmentation of the party is more open and unscripted.  The party is being called on to dump its nominee, which would be unprecedented.  It appears more certain that Trump will lose the election.  Afterward, the GOP itself is more likely to break apart than to survive.

The immediate precipitant is an ‘October surprise’: nasty footage capturing Trump boasting of his crude sexual behavior back in 2005.  The tape is causing a flap, outraging a whole new constituency of people who were not openly speaking out against Trump before.  Many GOP candidates and voters are suddenly loudly denouncing Trump, demanding that he quit the race or be forced out by the RNC.

Moreover, I agree with this darkly compelling article by Rick Wilson that the troubles of Republicans in Congress are just beginning.  The constituency that catapulted Trump to the nomination and continues to back him in the general campaign is fundamentally anti-establishment and will not mesh with either the Party’s conservative or moderate wing.  The support flowing into the GOP presidential race is thus a force antithetical to the success and cohesion of the GOP in Congress.

Leading Republicans, whether moderates like the Bushes or conservatives like Ben Sasse, know they cannot cooperate with Trump without his damaging them.  Were Trump to be elected, the ideological divisions among Republicans in Washington would be unlike anything modern Americans have ever seen.  (The closest parallel might be the ‘accidental presidency’ of Tyler back in the 1840s, or the dark-horse ascendancy of his successor James Polk.)

Given that figures like Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, and Ted Cruz have been badly damaged by attempting to work with their party’s ostensible standard-bearer, other GOP leaders are bound to begin strategizing about how to keep their distance and distinguish their branch of Republicanism from Trump’s.  I would not be surprised to see the party break into three.

Image: A serious fissure (Hawaii),
© 2016 Susan Barsy

4 responses

  1. I agree. The insurgent Republican voters are not going to disappear. The GOP start courting these folks in the late 1960s and they have made up a larger and larger portion of the Republican constituency as the years passed. It is hard to say what percentage on average they compose of the national Republican electorate, but, in most congressional districts, it is large enough to push the MCs to the right. Unless a substantial number of MCs in the Freedom Caucus are defeated in November, the House majority will continue to be unable to bargain with the Senate and President. Great photo, Susan.

    • Thanks, Greg. This is really something to be living through. As a scholar it’s bringing me new appreciation of what nineteenth-century Americans experienced when their parties died or convulsed.

      Now party formation is something of a lost art, but perhaps a new party will form anyhow.

      Photo is from several years ago when yes I was persuaded to get into a helicopter.


  2. Oh my, I so wish the GOP party would split into three parts! The Dems would have a field day. . . . There may be signs of Trump’s base beginning to flounder and shift. A prominent caption on the front page of the Wall Street Journal claimed that his chances of being elected are looking more and more “diminished.” . . . As always, a well-written and very original post.

    • I’m not following the polls much at this point. The prevailing expressed sentiment that comes to me is pro-Clinton–but Chicago is not Trump territory. I find it fascinating that Boehner has declared he will vote for Trump, regardless of the low esteem he has for his party’s nominee.
      I have heard from a few people who view the possibility of Trump’s being elected with equanimity. One friend thinks Trump would be relatively inactive and ineffectual if elected.