Wow, am I glad I’m not a Republican. Aside from the obvious reasons, they are left with pretty much of a disaster after yesterday’s primaries. Donald Trump won Florida by a landslide (see below), but lost Ohio to favorite son Gov. John Kasich, keeping him alive, so between him and Sen. Ted Cruz they potentially have enough delegates to keep Mr. Trump from winning an outright majority by the time they get to Cleveland for the convention in July. That could prove to be the biggest debacle for the city since the Cuyahoga River caught fire.
Every Republican, elected and not, will now have to pick sides. All the excuses to keep an open mind or see how things play out – to kick the can down the road – are now exhausted. I am really not sure how it plays out. But the more I watch this play out the more I think the current Republican party – by which I mean the Republican coalition that we’ve known for almost four decades – will not survive this crisis. The Republican party won’t go anywhere. The R-D two party system has survived for 150 years with a number different versions of each party operating under those labels. But I’m skeptical that we go back. And when there’s a break down in one party’s coalition that almost always destabilizes the other party too.
For those of us of a certain age, it is fascinating to see the mantle of disarray shift from the Democrats to the Republicans. It used to be that the Democrats couldn’t organize a one-car parade and tumultuous conventions and infighting were their shtick while the GOP were the paragons of calm and predetermined entitlement. You have to go back forty years to where the Republicans had any kind of contested convention — Ford vs. Reagan — and before that it was Goldwater vs. Rockefeller et al in 1964. The outcome of each election that followed was not a happy one for them.
That’s not to say this will be a long-standing scar for them. The GOP has an annoying capacity for bouncing back: each time after these debacles they won the presidential election four years later. But as Josh notes, it required a revamping of the coalition that made up the party to do it, and if that’s the case with the rise of Trumpism, it is not a pretty sight. Brace yourself for a dark period of nativism and isolationism within all levels of the GOP, not just the base.