Is the Party Over For Republicans? (Part 1)
With feuds turning into Civil Wars within both political parties, one has to wonder if this is the beginning of the end for Republicans?
Looking at the burgeoning rifts slowly ripping apart the two major political parties in America, one has to wonder if we in the states are witnessing the public implosion of two powerhouse political machines. One needs look no further than the fact that, for the first time since polling began, both political parties nominated individuals that were disliked by the majority of the people.
By no means am I a political historian, nor have I ever claimed to be a journalist (though for my senior year in high school my contributions to the county paper didn’t go unnoticed). The vaguely political articles I write on Medium are meant to get folks thinking. I mention this upfront because I’m recognizing and acknowledging my limitations when talking and writing about these subjects, while also acknowledging the inherent biases and political motivations behind some of the links being shared. I might not necessarily agree with some of the links, especially from mainstream news and talking head sources (Fox affiliates included), but it is important to acknowledge the narrative being pushed by these outlets. In other words, this is my perspective on the Republican Party shitshow.
I also want to acknowledge that there are certain factions within both parties that work with one of the two mainstream establishment parties mostly as a marriage of convenience.
It is because of this uneasy union that I’m sure some may point to the fact that there have always been rifts and schisms within all major political parties, but these factions often come together on certain important issues that they hold dear and tow certain establishment party lines. I mention these factions and their uneasy alliances because I recognize that some people might not consider themselves party loyalists and would be annoyed at the idea of being associated with one of the two major establishment political parties (think Tea Party types). However, because of the domineering two party system, it must also be acknowledged that these factions are often forced to work with one of the two establishment political parties as a means to be heard or get some of their ideas to the discussion table. However, the two establishment parties need help/votes from these factions too, and, essentially both cannot move their agendas forward without the other.
Because of this, it gives the further appearance of a two party system that is often prodded by the news media, fanning the flames of this “us VS. them” mentality, going so far (supposedly in an attempt to make politics more appealing) as to make politics look like a football/sports entertainment event. It doesn’t help when the media tells us that Americans are more divided and scared of their opposing political party. This often makes it feel like it’s only “left VS. right” or however one wants to frame it.
However, what the media has only touched on here and there (from my knowledge anyway), is that there are growing chasms between factions within both major political parties. What’s interesting to me is that each year, these factions continue to feel emboldened and have with increasing aplomb break with the rank and file members of their party. And, because of the time in which we live in where information is readily available online, not to mention social media’s sometimes intrusive peeking into our lives, many of us can witness the infighting between both political parties.
Couple that with the divisiveness of the 2016 Presidential Election that have emboldened these certain factions, other than the traditional, mainstream political elites, and we have a recipe for a potential inter-party civil wars. The purpose of this article is to examine the continued splintering of both political corporations of America, asking if this is in fact the beginning of the end for both parties.
The Republican Party Establishment, more than anyone, should be celebrating. They’ve gained considerable power in the 2016 Elections, and they pretty much dominate the state and federal levels of politics within the United States. Republican leaders can, in theory, enact whatever laws and policies they wish, since the Democrats hold a minority that can do little more than act as a protest vote. Hell, Democrats lost and keep on loosing in astounding fashion. Despite this, there’s still a major, sobering problem. Thanks to the 2016 Presidential Election, Republican Party Leaders now have to contend with and frequently clean up the messes of this problem.
Part 1- The Republican Rift Widens
Nobody saw him coming, except perhaps a dead Hunter S. Thompson and a few others. As Susan McWilliams wrote in a December 2016 article in The Nation,
Thompson foresaw the retaliatory, right-wing politics that now goes by the name of Trumpism. After following the [Hell’s Angels] around for months, Thompson concluded that the most striking thing about them was not their hedonism but their “ethic of total retaliation” against a technologically advanced and economically changing America in which they felt they’d been counted out and left behind. Thompson saw the appeal of that retaliatory ethic. He claimed that a small part of every human being longs to burn it all down, especially when faced with great and impersonal powers that seem hostile to your very existence. In the United States, a place of ever greater and more impersonal powers, the ethic of total retaliation was likely to catch on.
The Republican Party Establishment was attempting to channel that anger and show its base that they understood why the Republican Party lost the presidency despite, in many ways, thrashing Democrats in the 2014 midterms. It was a particularly delicate dance the Republican Party Establishment had to perform with the clearly small yet rather vocal Tea Party Conservatives/Freedom Caucus factions that had gained large, enthusiastic support from many more hard-line conservatives. This alliance came about, thanks in part to Nixon. But it’s only been recently that this uneasy alliance has been threatened to crumble. Despite the shortage of people in leadership positions, this conservative group found themselves in a position of power in that they held enough seats in Congress and the Senate to serve as swing votes. What also helped them was their ability to unleash their vocal base of supporters to turn up pressure on Republican Party Establishment leaders. Despite this group’s frustrating tendency for obstruction-ism, they would come to represent a large swathe of the Republican Party electorate, even though the Republican Party Establishment appeared OK seemingly ignoring this growing groundswell of rage that would eventually be personified by Donald Trump.
To make matters a little more ironic (and possibly frustrating) for Republicans, their new standard bearer has, if anything, not really considered himself a Republican, until now.
He's a Republican now
Donald Trump, the erstwhile Democrat, independent and member of the Reform Party, finally has a fixed partisan identity…
The Brawl for All to See
So, it should come as no surprise then that many Republicans aren’t exactly fans of Donald Trump. Not that the now President exactly endeared himself with many Republican leaders either. His brash, slash-and-burn-take-no-prisoners style in the primaries rubbed many in the Republican Party Establishment the wrong way, especially the many, many people he insulted and bullied with wild abandon. I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen by taking this approach, though one would think it didn’t do him any favors in terms of further alienating himself from the politicians he was hoping to lead. Some political leaders within the Republican Party Establishment attempted to fight back, but in doing so made it seem like they hadn’t learned their lessons in previous defeats. Perhaps most surprising was the very public non-endorsement of Donald Trump by snake oil salesman and vocal Tea Party supporter Ted Cruz’s very public non-endorsement at the Republican Convention. Perhaps this slightly emboldened others within the Tea Party leadership, signaling that they could still stand up to Donald Trump despite the fact that many in their base of constituents propelled Cruz (thought of as another political outsider and pariah, like Trump) to second place, only behind Trump in the primaries. Granted, a few months later Cruz did in fact endorse Donald Trump and was then publicly humiliated by shilling for The Donald. Mitt Romney suffered a similar public humiliation fate.
Regardless, this bellicose-carnival-barker style won Trump support from a clearly angry constituency looking for tangible change. Or as others described him; the middle finger of the working class and a human Molotov cocktail.
Trump, like Bernie Sanders, tapped into a certain amount of anger and anxiety within many, but especially white people.
One by one, all other challengers fell, including presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party Establishment, which Democrats should have seen coming. For a guy with no political experience, he seemed to revel in making his wins look easy. Yet he did, and continues to put both feet in his mouth so often that his tongue is starting to turn black from all the metaphorical shoe polish he’s been sucking on.
Perhaps another ironic twist to the ongoing Republican saga is the fact that, as Conor Friedersdorf muses in The Atlantic’s article, “Republicans Are a Majority Without a Mandate,”
“The Republican Congress (and its own dismal approval rating) only complicates matters. All of its members were duly elected, too. Most of those senators and representatives ran on platforms that clash bigly with Trump on immigration, trade, foreign policy, or some other vital matter. (The GOP’s primary electorate may have rejected Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz as presidents; but voters in Florida, Kentucky, and Texas Senate races chose them, even as voters in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district chose him over a Trumpian challenger.)”
Or, as a Bloomberg article noted when Trump proposed a deal to Senator Mitch McConnell,
“McConnell offered an unusually strong rebuff of a budget request coming from a president of his own party. Trump’s priorities “aren’t necessarily ours,” he said…
Despite the victory of the Republicans Party Establishment in the 2016 Elections, there was little time for celebration. Whatever assumptions Republican political leaders had about having an easy road to making sweeping changes — their dreams were quickly dashed. The reality of having an unconventional President with no political experience hiring other blunt talkers with little political experience used to getting their way, proved to be a sobering wakeup call.
It’s not just Republican political leaders who are squaring off with each other. Recently, conservative harpy Anne Coulter and sycophant Sean Hannity threw down in a testy exchange online. I mention these two blowhards in particular because chances are, they represent a much wider swath of folks who probably voted for Trump, but are now disagreeing with each other.
In the beginning, many pundits and leaders were hopeful about President Trump not only uniting Republicans, but a divided nation. But, the misgivings some had were at least partially founded as it became apparent that Trump often likes to (or watch others) wage chaotic battles in very public, media centric settings. This is due to the seemingly egomaniacal way he obsesses over news coverage of himself and his administration, only to fight back against the same media he’s so dubbed “enemy of the american people.” For a guy who doesn’t like and/or doesn’t care about the news media, he sure seems to enjoy watching at least five hours a day of it.
As an aside, let’s examine the notion that the news media is in fact biased against conservative and Republican ideas (and voices). Let’s even set aside the fact that Donald Trump, before being elected President, was given nearly 2 billion dollars worth of free airtime while he was running as a Republican. If one were to believe that the news media is in fact biased against conservatives and Republicans — as many within the Republican Party feel and have felt for quite some time — Republican Leaders sure have an odd way of navigating through these waters. If this bias was in fact tangible (and if leaders actually believed it is), you’d think Republican Leaders would at least make an attempt to look like they have their shit together, especially if (in their minds) the news media is looking for excuses to hate on them. In other words, as Monica Crowley wrote in a New York Post article about Nixonian advice that would benefit Republicans,
“[Nixon’s] point was that he should have recognized that, given the grave threat he posed to the establishment and media, he should have been hyper-vigilant and hyper-ethical, leaving no openings anywhere for anyone to leverage against him.”
What may have been more surprising however, is the stubborn obstructionist nature of the small, yet rather vocal Tea Party Conservatives/Freedom Caucus factions. Despite the fact that they were seen as being more sympathetic to the causes of the verbose Trump (as many of their constituents are what powered Trump to the Presidency in the first place), they continue to cause problems and annoyances within a Republican Party that is seeking to appear less driven by obstruction. As an anonymous ally of Paul Ryan explained in an article on CNN,
“Just like the [healthcare] bill itself, [Ryan] is the victim of the Freedom Caucus, which cannot pass legislation on its own, but has the ability to stop anything," said the GOP member. "When they do, they damage the president, the Speaker and the entire Republican Conference as well. They possess the most dangerous thing in politics -- power without accountability."
Perhaps President Trump, the supposed best deal maker, miscalculated the amount of support he had from this faction. Or, it could be that Trump is surprised by how little support he’s having in Congress despite running as a Republican. Maybe he underestimated the Republican Party Establishment’s weak stomach for his style of leadership, not to mention his scandal prone inexperience, particularly his unfiltered (and often bizarre) tweets. However, some leaders have begun taking a harsher tone with their leader. After his first 100 day struggles, some conservative-leaning news outlets were suggesting that President Trump’s plans are being held hostage by congress despite the fact that he identifies as a Republican and he’s working with a historic Republican majority, in both the congress and senate.
Speaking of that majority, it’s not helping that this group seems to have little to show despite many of the promises made by President Trump. Or, what they do have to show was stalled for a long time until recently (like the Muslim Ban) or it has continued to stall (like repealing Obamacare). Apparently, much of the conservative agenda has stalled to the point that it’s made the real leaders of the Republican Party Establishment (the ones with the money) so nervous and frustrated with the lack of progress that they’ve shut down their piggy banks until things are accomplished! It’s no wonder then that many are looking to rush through getting bills passed, or hurrying through other legislative obstacles in secret.
It’s also no wonder then that voters seem to blame Congress, and not so much Trump for lack of accomplishments.
What’s worse is that other more conservative websites are reporting that, behind closed doors, a “Vast majority of Hill GOP Prefers Pence,” as Mike Allen writes on Axios. Ouch! As Tim Alberta writes in a Politico article,
“[Pence] is the administration’s most effective and reassuring messenger, often because of his license to clarify or even correct things said by his boss. And he is widely viewed by Republicans on Capitol Hill as the de facto leader of the GOP—not just the safety parachute for a free-falling presidency, but a polished, respected statesman from whom members can take their cues.”
GOP leaders may not be the only ones preparing for a shift in power at some point. Double ouch! What’s the worst of the worst is that, due to Trump’s political inexperience, some within his cadre are looking to push their own agendas despite what he promised,
A major crisis could redraw the political map overnight, explains Naomi Klein, giving Trump and his crew free rein to…
Maybe Trump has been having trouble passing his massive agenda because it doesn’t always jive with reality. Maybe it’s “…due to his dysfunctional ways and inborn class biases, [Trump] has betrayed the very people who put him in office,” as Joel Kotkin of The Daily Beast surmises in his article.
Maybe it’s the fact that he brought people into his inner circle that don’t get along and are constantly trying to undermine each other. Multiple news outlets have been reporting that Bannon, one of Trump’s advisors, is highly suspected to be leaking information to the press about Trump’s son-in-law, Kushner. While earlier in the year, several conservative-leaning websites were reporting that Kushner was suspected of leaking info to the press about Bannon. On top of all this, some of the President’s other counselors don’t know when to stfu and (perhaps) inadvertently hurt and undermine his already divisive messages too.
Again, one would think if these advisors (and the President) really believed the news media really is “the enemy of the American people,” these warring factions would be a little more tight lipped and/or find other ways to undermine their rivals, especially if they believe the news media is spreading fake news instead of using the media in their proxy wars.
However, what’s even worse for this embattled President is that key figures within his party may be looking to do more than simply reign him in.
Part Two examines how certain leaders and radical supporters of President Trump are not only undermining his authority, but the power of the Republican Party as a whole.