Internal GOP Politics and the Trump Problem

The NYT has a long, but worthwhile piece on the internal difficulties that the Republican Party is having to face as the Trump nomination comes closer to irrevocable reality:  Inside the Republican Party’s Desperate Mission to Stop Donald Trump.

I highly recommend it.  As I keep noting to friends, the GOP’s current situation is quite fascinating from a political science point of view (although the chance of a Trump presidency is wholly disconcerting from my POV as a citizen–that and that fact that a not insignificant portion of my fellow Americans think a President Trump is a good idea).

I won’t excerpt the piece, but I was very much struck by the following:

Should Mr. Trump clinch the presidential nomination, it would represent a rout of historic proportions for the institutional Republican Party, and could set off an internal rift unseen in either party for a half-century, since white Southerners abandoned the Democratic Party en masse during the civil rights movement.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Gustopher says:

    From the article:

    LePage urged the governors to draft an open letter “to the people,” disavowing Mr. Trump and his divisive brand of politics.

    Well, that didn’t last long. LePage has, of course, endorsed Trump almost immediately after David Duke and Christ Christie did.

  2. @Gustopher: I think we will see a lot of that kind of thing between now and November.

  3. Ratufa says:

    If I wasn’t worried about the remote, but non-zero, possibility that Trump could actually win the Presidency if he was nominated. I’d be totally in favor of him being the nominee. Partly for this reason (though, as nominee, not President):

    And also because the Republican Party might benefit from a good shake-up.

  4. bloated sack of protoplasm says:

    OK so Trump doesn’t know David Duke but he does know Jeff Sessions.

    “At this time, in my best judgment, at this time in America’s history, we need to make America great again,” Sessions said.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Ratufa: And a Trump nomination would be the Dems’ best shot at a majority in the Senate. I’d say it’s not worth the risk, but the options at this point are Cruz and Rubio. Neither less of a risk if elected than Trump, and probably harder to beat. I may cross over and vote for Trump in my primary.

  6. Jim R says:

    As I’m registered Independent and my state’s primaries are semi-open, I am strongly considering a strategic Trump vote as well. At this point the Republican Party could benefit from being burnt down and started again from scratch.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Conservatives are, pretty much by definition, a kiss up, kiss down kind of people, Most will kiss Trumps…ring and adapt. Some will move to the Dems, making the Dems even more a party of the .01% than they are now. This will leave us with a centrist party and whatever the wreckage of the Republican Party becomes. Quite possibly a far right, nativist party. With control of a majority of the states. Sad.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    All of this is hardly surprising considering the power vacuum left by the disastrous George W. Bush presidency…the question is, how many Republicans will fall in line behind Trump and how many will oppose him in November…

  9. Barry says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “I think we will see a lot of that kind of thing between now and November.”

    I diagree – we will see a lot of that by mid-March. As I understand it, Super Tuesday is the 8th, and the midwestern primaries are immediately after. Trump will sweep most states, except for Texas, and there he’ll still get a lot of delegates.

  10. DrDaveT says:

    @An Interested Party:

    All of this is hardly surprising considering the power vacuum left by the disastrous George W. Bush presidency

    I know why I think the Dubya presidency was disastrous, but I suspect my views are not widespread within the GOP. As best I can tell, only a small fraction of current Republicans regret anything at all about those 8 years.

  11. Gustopher says:

    I’m pretty sure that having people endorse Trump is not the way to stop him — unless they can get a few hated Democrats to endorse him. Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank, perhaps.

    And, when the alternative is Ted Cruz, it turns out a lot of elected Republicans would rather the party lose badly than stop Trump — I assume these are the people who have gotten to know Ted Cruz, and realized that foiling his ambitions is more important than winning the White House (is it just spite, or have they decided he is that dangerously unstable).

  12. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: The Republicans who realize that the only plausible anti-Trump is Ted Cruz, and then decide to lose the election by supporting the obvious clown fill me with hope. Far too often we hear from the shrillness voices on the left that the Republicans put party above country, but if they rally around a Trump defeat rather than a competitive run with Cruz, then it is clear that they put the country first.

    Or it is amazing spite.

  13. @Gustopher: I take the more cynical view that those jumping on the Trump ship are migrating to the winner’s side in the hopes of gaining power and influence should he win.

  14. David in KC says:

    If you haven’t seen the Trump segment from last nights Last Week Tonight, you need to check it out.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: Ted Cruz may actually have less of a shot in the general than Trump. The Republican Party has existed to serve the needs of the .01%. They want their taxes cut, their businesses lightly regulated, the Marines ready to invade any banana republic that gets out of line, the Fed ready to bail out their banks, nothing done to reduce carbon, and fergawdsakes don’t even think about not raising the debt ceiling. They don’t care one way or another about gay rights, abortion, or Obamacare. And they like cheap immigrant labor. Rubio looks to be beyond salvaging and Cruz has demonstrated hostility to their agenda. Trump is one of them. @Barry: is right. They’ll be kissing his … ring by mid March.

    The Party no longer has any significant control over funding. Any billionaire can get a pet politician and run him for prez. And the Koch Bros, with their massive funding are taking over the Party machinery. John Roberts and his accomplices thought they were buying the permanent Republican majority for the .01%. Talk about your unintended consequences.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: Yes, well, that’s why the Kochs are so miffed at Trump. Their candidate was Rubio, and he’s getting trampled underfoot.

  17. MBungte says:

    We’ve been seeing these rumblings on the right since Pat Buchanan in 1992. Every time the party establishment won the day, then went right back to doing the very things that fomented such discontent.

    I mean, everybody knows why evangelicals are supporting Trump, right? It’s because last time around their leaders told them to vote for a Mormon, someone who isn’t even a Christian by their standards. Few people in the media or the GOP elite take religion seriously enough to appreciate what crossing that line would mean for the future.


  18. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Super Tuesday is tomorrow, March 1st

  19. mike shupp says:

    Steven Taylor:

    I dunno about that great “internal rift” in the Republican party. Do you see some sort of Trump-ish movement out there, with hundreds of Trump-like would-be politicians emulating the Freat Man’s rhetoric and charisma? Do you envision hundreds if thousands of Trump partisans applying for civil service jobs and working their way up the ranks so that the State can serve its new masters effectively? Are there Army officers and enlisted men thirsting for a Trump-shaped foreign and military policy? Are there professors and publishers busily rewriting high school history texts to properly indoctrinate the Trump-adoring students of tomorrow?

    I don’t see any of this. I think Trump is sui generis. When he’s off the stage, he’ll be gone.

    Ted Cruz, on the other hand . . .

  20. Barry says:

    @DrDaveT: “As best I can tell, only a small fraction of current Republicans regret anything at all about those 8 years.”

    The only thing that they regret is losing elections. Trashing the country, let alone the worldwide damage that they did, is nothing to them.

    When people sympathize with Trump supporters, I see people who hated on Clinton for 8 frikin’ years, then looked around at how good things were in 2000, and voted Republican. In 2008, they looked at how bad things were, and voted Republican. In 2016, the only reason that they might not vote Republican is if they follow Trump to a third party run (one can hope).