The rift between Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell and former President Donald Trump seen here in the Oval Office in July 2020 is a symptom of something brewing long before the Trump era. Doug Mills / Pool / Getty Images Hide caption
Doug Mills / Pool / Getty Images
Doug Mills / Pool / Getty Images
The divide within the Republican Party has fully unfolded this week.
Following the vote on the acquittal of Donald Trump for impeachment on charges of insurrection following the January 6th Capitol riot, Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell made it clear that the former president was is responsible.
“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” said McConnell, who noted that he did not vote for a conviction because he believed a former official was not for impeachment can be charged.
Trump card answeredas he likes to say, ten times harder. In a statement Tuesday, he called McConnell “a grumpy, sullen, and unsmiling political hack,” adding: “[I]If Republican senators stay with him, they won’t win again. “
McConnell worked with Trump during his four years in the White House. The Senate chairman led Trump’s tax cuts through Congress and confirmed a record number of judges at the Bundesbank.
But maybe it was predictable that it would end like this. It was only so long before the Kentucky Republican – and the establishment wing of the party he represents – could attempt to ride the tiger that is Trump.
These are two very different men, but the fight represents something much more than just the two. It is a symbol of the fragmentation between ordinary Republicans and has roots that go back much further than Trump’s political ascent.
Still Trump’s party
Make no mistake: the GOP of 2021 is very much Trump’s party.
His Republican approval ratings continue to surpass others in the party, and two-thirds Republicans say they still want him to lead the GOP.
Trump also controls much of the country’s conservative political apparatus, with the Republican National Committee firmly in his grip.
This means that state officials are completely in his camp, which has become perfectly clear since Trump’s impeachment. County and state parties in a number of states have sought to reprimand Republicans who voted to indict or convict the former president.
But something else is happening within the party at both ends of the spectrum.
in the higher than normal Numbers that have tens of thousands of formerly registered Republicans across the country dropped the party label since January 6th. And some – a clear minority of anti-Trump Republicans – are straight consider starting a third party.
“I’ve reached a number of political people – leaders and grassroots citizens,” said Evan McMullin, a former House Republican Conference political director who ran for independent president in 2016. He placed a phone call earlier this month from more than 120 disaffected Republicans interested in someone else’s idea. “You have enough and are ready to move on, ready for change.”
McMullin said they were mostly “former Trump supporters who valued politics and the judges, but the uprising was too much and believed it was time for the Republican Party to move on.”
In September, only 40% of Republicans said a third party was necessary. That’s loud. Now increased to 63% Gallup.
But that increase is mostly due to Trump supporters, not people who are against Trump, said Jeff Jones, a senior editor at Gallup.
“It’s more of a pro-Trump group looking to break away from the GOP,” said Jones, adding that there is frustration with both [sides] together. … I think the civil war in the Republican Party is pushing them to these higher levels of “the independents and those in favor of a third party”.
Not a new chasm
The rift between Trump and McConnell isn’t too surprising, other than how public it has become.
McConnell is a cautious and astute political insider whose lack of dynamism is offset by his tactical skills. His primary concern is to come up with candidates who he believes can win.
Trumpism, he believes, will not lead to a majority everywhere. Eventually, Trump alienated graduated voters and suburbs during his presidency, and the party lost not only the White House but control of both houses of Congress.
Trump, on the other hand, may be undisciplined and divisive, but his oversized personality and bombastic political inaccuracy have given him the heart of his party and brought new voters into the group. He believes that candidates who position themselves as uncompromising in its controversial form are the only way for the party to go.
However, this gap is not new. The Republican Party – the Lincoln Party, as Republicans like to say – was a party dominated by the rich and educated.
The party was not as dominant in the south as it is today. In fact, it had a strong hold in the northeast. It was Democrats who had dominated the South for a long time – “Dixie Crats” as they were sometimes called.
But that began to change in the 1960s with the election of Democrat John F. Kennedy, a liberal Northeast. the civil rights movement; and Lyndon Johnson’s embrace of it.
Jim Crow-era laws were dismantled and black Americans were given more rights and freedoms, especially when it came to integration and voting.
Some in the GOP believed that the road to majority would be through a “Southern Strategy”. It used appeals to fear and white racial complaints that began a long arc of American political turmoil centered around race and culture.
The then Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced his resignation on September 25, 2015. Astrid Riecken / Getty Images hide the caption
Astrid Riecken / Getty Images
Astrid Riecken / Getty Images
It arguably laid the foundation for the tea party movement that emerged during the tenure of the first black president, Barack Obama. This led to the formation of the Freedom Caucus, the Republican bloc of the Hardline House that led to the overthrow of John Boehner as spokesman and culminated in Trump’s election.
In recent years, non-college whites have shown interest in the Republican Party, while graduates – both whites and the growing non-whites in the suburbs – have drawn to Democrats.
So this is a very different Republican Party than it was decades ago. Gone are the worries of free trade and a Hawk national security with a strong American global presence. It’s a kind of right-wing populism, with voters enlivened by cultural issues like immigration, abortion, and religious freedom – things that the grassroots consider necessary to sustain a way of life that threatens liberal popular culture.
Trump critic McMullin sees continuity in the rise of the former president.
“In my view, it was a logical next step on a destructive path that was already there in the GOP before Trump got in,” he said.
Trump’s influence on the Republican Party raises questions about the direction of the future of the GOP in American politics at a volatile and unpredictable time, with sky-high polarization and personal distrust.
But even McMullin has clear eyes as to whether or when the party will drop Trump. It could be years before Trump fever breaks, he said.
“If the party continues to bet on Trumpism in 2022 and is defeated again, then another section of Republicans would likely want a different direction and have an even more robust debate within the party at this point,” McMullin said. “And that may not be enough to change the direction of the party.
“It may be a cycle or two before something changes.”