By Trevor Law
Last September, House Speaker John Boehner announced he would resign at the end of October, the current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was the presumed favorite but dropped out of the race, throwing the election for a new speaking into chaos. As this was going on, a band of 50 moderate Republicans joined with the Democrats to authorize funds for the import-export bank. Something most Republican lawmakers opposed. This has lead me to one conclusion, the Republican party isn’t just in a civil war, it is heading for a split.
For further evidence of this look no further than the current Presidential race. Trump, Carson, Fiorina, and Cruz are all the anti-politician. These are people who either have no political experience, or who are openly at war with the center of the Republican party. While the other candidates are quite different (I can’t believe I just lumped Rand Paul and Jeb Bush together) they still work as a party and it would be easy to imagine them working in Washington, the rest…not so much.
Why is this happening? Why are conservative politicians and activists at war with each other? Well, this has been a long time coming. The coalition Reagan put together is falling apart at the seams. The Bush years are viewed as a betrayal by many conservatives, both for their failure to curb abortion and same-sex marriage, and for the explosive growth in government that occurred under Bush. Not only that, but because of Republican control of both the House and Senate, many Conservatives view it as a betrayal that Obama has not been ground into dust, and that his signature achievements have not been gutted. As such, a war between the various groups in the GOP was inevitable.
Just because a divide exists though, doesn’t mean the party will fall apart, the Democrats had a major split in 1948 and that coalition existed for decades afterwards. I am unsure if the current split means a new party will emerge, if a third party will spin off and then merge with the GOP, or if this is just a bump in the road, but it’s very hard to imagine these groups merging together again. The Presidential candidates are running against the Republican congress, and gaining ground, in the Republican party. This is huge and frankly can’t be easily undone. I see no living Republican who could currently heal the divide in the GOP and unless both factions decided it isn’t worth the internal fight, a split seems inevitable.
Normally I would be cheering for this but honestly, I am a little worried. You have to go back to 1855 to find this kind of divide in the Republican party, and the divides in the Democratic party were caused primarily by the civil rights movement. Those were not calm moments in U.S. history. We face a budget crisis that Congress has been determined to cause. A budget must be passed in December or else the federal government will shut down, costing billions of dollars, and if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling in November the Federal government will go through a partial default, causing unimaginable damage to global markets.
This at a time when the House is literally leaderless, and the rank and file of House Republicans has zero idea or inclination to govern. While the Republican Party is conservative, and committed to reducing the size of government, one faction sees it as a moral crusade, to burn the government to the ground, acting as an almost anarchist faction, the other, sees the government as necessary and wants to at least try to work with the President and the Democratic Party to make our system work. These are not two ideas that cannot coexist, one must destroy the other. Unless a figure emerges who could unite these two factions then a split, and maybe even a split ticket or split convention, is inevitable. The political consequences for such an event are a total unknown, and we are swiftly moving into totally unknown waters. I don’t know if the Republican Party will survive intact in 2016, but most terrifying of all, neither does anyone else, especially the Republican party.
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