Monday, March 14, 2016

Will The Republican Party Really Split?

There's been some talk about the modern Republican Party.

About how it's on the verge of utter collapse.

Oh, I wrote earlier that for all intents the Republican Party as we knew it was dead. It was no longer a party of serious conservative thought having replaced all that with reckless fearmongering and race-baiting, that it had kicked out its moderate and progressive elements ages ago, and was now essentially the Southern Slaveholder Party of 1865 Reborn in all but name.

I am not the only one claiming that, by the by.

It's now so common-place a thought within the mainstream/conventional wisdom that there are actual questions as to HOW the potential break-up of the Republicans is going to be like. The Washington Post is taking it serious and even asking serious historians like Eric Foner about it:

FONER: Well, it depends what you mean by a "fracture." If you mean events that totally destroyed a major party and created a new one, the last time that happened would have been in the 1850s. Before that, the country had two major political parties: the Democrats and the Whigs. Since then, we have had basically two major parties -- the Democratic and Republican Parties -- with some short-lived breakaway and one-election-cycle movements that sometimes deeply influenced election outcomes. But we have not seen an actual party die or a new one born and continue since 1854...
...Well there are actually quite a few of these moments in American history. We have generally had a two-party system, even though there's nothing requiring that in the Constitution. But we've certainly seen splinters. Then, those third parties have merged or fallen apart again and again...

On the one hand, like Foner I'm not a firm believer in certainties when it comes to predicting the future. Anything can happen, something could conceivably force the factions within the GOP to re-unite. Who knows, maybe sheer spite of the tree-hugging dirty hippie libruls might do it. If only both sides can agree on who's not coddling said libruls when the other side's not looking.

On the other hand, this dynamic clearly can no longer exist. The people in control of the Republican Party - the financial donors, the seasoned consultants, the elected veterans of too many Congressional terms - are no longer in sync with their actual voting base of low-education poor White Males. It turns out all the fearmongering and Establishment-bashing the party elites kept telling their followers via the Far Right news channels and websites made those followers fear and hate their own self-entitled party bosses. It's all leading up to the near certainty of a thin-skinned, narcissistic con artist pitching the basest form of race-baiting and immigrant-bashing by the name of Trump winning enough delegates this week to clinch a commanding lead for the Republican nomination for President.

This is the kind of personal betrayal in a relationship that ends up with both sides in tears.

This isn't like a relationship breakup though. We're not talking about the uber-rich power brokers of the Establishment getting to keep the beach house in the Bahamas while the Populists hold onto the condo in Manhattan. We're talking about who gets to retain the controls of a national political party at all levels of government.

There's been other talk about how the Establishment now has two choices: deny Trump the nomination at the July convention and risk him fleeing to a Third Party run that kills their chances at the White House, or flee themselves from the GOP - taking all their billionaire backers with them - and try their own Third Party bid... which still kills their chances at the White House. Either move can risk their down-ticket races for the Senate and some state-level elections as well (it's unlikely the House is at risk due to massive gerrymandering).

There is, of course, a third option: openly embrace the Dark Side, accept Trump's campaign of immigrant-bashing that appeals to their loudest and angriest voting base, and hope that they've got enough voter suppression efforts in enough states to diminish the anti-Trump vote and eke out a corrupt win in November. But that move would essentially kill the lie the party has been telling itself that it's never really this racist and hateful. It would certainly kill off any hope the Republicans have of surviving the coming demographic change in the next decade, which is real and inevitable.

There are not a lot of smart options for the Republicans right now, at least for the ones who care about being smart. The ones who are willfully ignorant, they're likely thrilled they're finally playing this game the way they want to.

All said and done though, I doubt the GOP really blows apart. Neither side of this potential break-up will last long outside of the existing organizational charts. Starting up your own Third Party is too much trouble... and the rules - especially when it comes to winning elections - are stacked against you. There's a reason - as Foner himself notes - why most Third Parties throughout history - most of them just vanity projects to begin with - don't last past two election cycles before getting consumed by the duolithic tag-team of Jeffersonian/Jacksonian Democrats and Federalists/Whigs/Know-Nothings/Republicans. There's a reason why the deep-pocket extremists like the Koch Brothers decided to get rich and buy the GOP instead of building their own political machine.

This won't be the Van Halen/David Lee Roth split. It's not like they'll be two parties in 2018 running as "The Real Republicans" and "The Really Real Republicans, We Mean It" against the Democrats.

What will likely happen is what usually happens to a political party that got too reflexive and stubborn for its own good: a massive realignment of who runs Bartertown uh the party itself.

There's a real likelihood with Trump as the candidate that the Republicans lose - and lose big - to Hillary and the Democrats this November. When/IF that happens, the denialists within their ranks are going to have to face reality that Trump's message and the hard drum beats of racial demagoguery just aren't working anymore. There would be a real push to fix the message delivery, which means Roger Ailes - the guy at Fox Not News who allowed all this to happen - to face a very brutal retirement push out the door. It could well signal a loss of prestige and power among the leaders of the Far Right Noise Machine - hi, Rush! - to where they get the boot as well (Limbaugh in particular has become a very expensive albatross to his media company). There could be additional - and genuine - reforms by the deep-pocket backers sick of throwing money into a pit that gives them little return on investment.

The risk is that Trump wins - more out of terrible turnout by the Democrats (either intentional voter suppression or self-inflicted spite to not vote) than by Trump's salesmanship - in which case the opposite happens: the denialists get full control up and down the party command... and implode on their own due to their failure to handle the real world, in which case the Republicans have to clean out the rot anyway. But this way will be messier and more likely to take a lot of innocent lives with the effort.

As I said earlier, the Republican Party as we knew it is dead. It's more the Party of John C. Calhoun than of Lincoln or Teddy or Ike or even Reagan.

The question is, what kind of Party will rise to take its place?

It all depends on how brutal Hillary beats Trump in November. Personally, I'm hoping for 45 states plus DC going for Hillary at 59 percent of the popular vote, but that's just wishful thinking. It's really wishful thinking, because we all have to f-cking get out the vote and stop Trump from winning, period. Even a 51-49 percent win for Hillary with 272 of the Electoral College will suffice.

All that matters is stopping Trump, and getting the Republicans to wake the hell up and fix themselves.


Paul Wartenberg said...

I should include in this how deluded either side of the GOP schism would be foolish if they go splitting into factions.

The billionaire deep-pocket backers may have all the money and currently a lot of the connections in halls of power, but they'll find real quick their messages and ability to buy off a new set of followers will be limited, and they'll never get the numbers needed to win elections.

And the rage-driven Nativist Populists making up the Trump coalition may have the numbers and the passion, but they don't have all that coherent a platform aside from "get rid of the Other and give me what I was promised". They may well lack the organizational skills to stay afloat as a long-term group, and their factions can split further over personal slights and miscues. They won't win many elections on their own either.

So again, there may be an election cycle or two of acrimony, but eventually a new coalition will form. It will depend entirely on if the revised GOP will exile their more embarrassing factions (the Dixiecrats that were brought in during the Southern Strategy) and go back to being more fiscal conservative, economically liberal party they were like during the early 20th Century.

Infidel753 said...

It's unlikely that a significant third party will arise, but even so, there can and likely will be a disastrous and permanent split. Either Trump is robbed of the nomination and bolts to run a Perot-style third candidacy (for revenge, even knowing he can't win) and takes his enraged cult followers with him -- or he gets the nomination and loses massively to Hillary because so many "normal" Republicans won't vote for him, again infuriating his supporters.

The divisions are already so bitter that it's hard to see the party recovering.

But even if the Republican party is crippled by the split, I don't see a third party arising to take its place. The country is so huge, and the logistics of building the same kind of national infrastructure that the Democrats and Republicans have is so daunting, that it may be as good as impossible. More likely we'd transition to a one-and-a-half party system -- the Republicans would remain competitive in some parts of the country, but not nationally, and for offices like the Presidency and most offices outside the deep South and the Mormon belt, the Democratic primaries would become the de facto elections.

If the Republicans eventually are no longer a factor, I suppose the Democrats might split (various scenarios are imaginable, such as a Warren-Sanders wing vs. an economic-centrist wing), and a two-party system would be restored that way.

Green Eagle said...

Don't forget the old saying, "Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line." This is a strange year, but I still suspect that the number of Republicans who won't vote for Trump if he is the nominee is vanishingly small. We know already that their votes are won through hatred and violence, and the Democrats are never going to beat the Republicans at that game. I'll have to see anything else happen before I really believe it could.