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