Last October I suggested that this election would mark the end of the Republican Party.
I argued that registered Republicans may claim the same party but hold different views. Almost all Republicans claim allegiance to President Reagan and view his Presidency with nostalgia. They all claim to be “Reagan Republicans.”
But they aren’t.
The “mainstream” Republicans looked to Jeb Bush and expected to have wrapped up the nomination by this time. Jeb favored smaller government and garnered significant popularity from his time as governor of Florida. His wife, Columba, was born in Mexico. They married in 1974 and she became a US citizen in 1979. Clearly he was the best candidate to reach out to the fastest growing demographic in our country. And, by the way, Jeb had the best argument to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan. His candidacy never got footing, and now most of his supporters are looking at Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Christian Conservative voters looked to Ted Cruz. They recognized that his successful Texas Senate campaign in 2012 made it clear he did not join the Senate to make friends. Most Senators recognize that they best serve their constituents by cooperating and working together with other Senators. But Ted and his supporters believe they are not following their own agendas, but God’s. And if you believe you are advancing God’s agenda, any compromise with your opponents diminishes your commitment to God’s agenda and places your soul in peril. In October of 2013, against the wishes of the Republican leadership, Ted forced a 2 week shutdown of the federal government over his call to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It didn’t work, it made his party appear out of touch, and it made much of the Republican Party hate him. But for his supporters it made him appear brave and visionary.
The libertarian wing of the Republican party has always attempted to find their voice. They believe that government should provide for a national defense and almost nothing else. They claim that the framers of the Constitution worked hard to limit the role of government in the lives of individual Americans and the expansion of government, particularly in the last 80 years, has betrayed their memory. They hold that only the free market can adequately pick winners and losers and social welfare programs incentivize the wrong people. They favored Rand Paul (and earlier his father Ron Paul). This wing never had much of a chance but they were OK with that.
The greatest surprise of the 2016 campaign (and the topic that will be written about for decades to come) comes from Donald Trump. He is a real estate developer and has never held elective office. When he began his presidential bid in June of 2015 he wasn’t given much of a chance. But he successfully tapped into long simmering anger among many Americans, and he drew huge numbers of people to his cause. And so what is his cause? It’s hard to pin down but Don’s rhetoric comes down to this: Washington is broken. The people you have elected for the past 50 years have betrayed you. They promised to serve you and make your life better but instead they made themselves comfortable at your expense. It’s time to throw them out and “make America great again.” I’m wealthy and smart and I know how to get things done. I will fulfill the promises the establishment promised.
So here’s the problem: John Kasich simply does not have the support he needs to lead. Ted Cruz’s promise of a “Christian Caliphate” emboldens conservative Christians but frightens the rest of us. There just aren’t enough libertarians to go anywhere. And Donald’s ongoing xenophobic, misogynist, racist and hateful remarks only shows us he cannot lead.
This doesn’t make headlines, but there are Republicans who have already recognized that they don’t have a candidate who can beat Hillary. Neither Trump or Cruz will have enough votes. But a Cruz nomination will at least keep the GOP intact while a Trump nomination will not.
If the GOP dies in 2016, conservatives will regroup, but it’s hard to know how.