The civil war raging in the GOP has passed the point of no return. At this point over 50 prominent Republican officials have announced they will not support Donald Trump’s quest for the Presidency. And it is a virtual certainty that Hillary Clinton will win the Presidential election come November 8.
That said, Donald Trump is still going to receive well over 40 million votes, the vast majority of which will come from self-described Republicans. But college educated voters are abandoning the GOP in droves. For the first time ever, the majority of college educated voters are going to wind up in the Democratic column.
The indisputable fact is that Donald Trump is now the face of the Republican Party. And Donald J Trump won the nomination by tapping into the forces driving the grass roots of the Party: an abandonment of the virtues of small government, individual freedom, free markets and free trade. It is now a party in the grip of disaffected voters who feel marginalized by elites; who are inward looking, and who are afraid of the future. And they are going to lose in November.
And for two reasons it is hard to see how the GOP is going to pick up the pieces after the debacle that is sure to come. First, the Trump candidacy has exposed a fundamental fissure in what had heretofore been the Republican coalition. Up until this point the Republican coalition consisted of a congeries of loosely connected ideologies that were vaguely “conservative”. In general they agreed that government is too big and too intrusive; that markets are superior to government for allocating resources; that the culture is in a state of serious disrepair, and that the traditional institutions of civil society are in need of a robust defense.
With the ascension of Donald Trump, that is out the window. While the conservative intelligentsia continues to hold these positions, it is clear that neither Donald Trump nor his followers do. Trump would make government, and especially the executive branch, bigger and more intrusive. He has no respect for the separation of powers. His tirades against trade, much cheered by the base, are antithetical to free markets. And as far as the culture is concerned, Donald Trump is the poster boy for all that is wrong with it.
The second problem the GOP faces is that Trump does not have a cogent theory of the case. Instead, his whole campaign is based on the idea of the Big Man who alone can fix things. And of course, the Big Man is none other than Donald J Trump. All who oppose him are weak and corrupt. Further, by casting himself as the outsider who is fighting a corrupt and “rigged” system, he implicitly denies the legitimacy of any outcome in which he does not emerge triumphant. He will leave his followers embittered at the GOP by blaming his all-but-certain loss on party elites.
So the problem for the GOP is twofold. First, Trump’s policy positions are fundamentally and irreconcilably in conflict with the worldviews of conservative political and policy elites that constitute the GOP establishment. Second, the GOP cannot win without Trump’s voters, and they can’t win Trump’s voters without Trump. In short, unless it can reconfigure itself to attract voters to replace the ones lost to Trump and the next demagogue who follows him, the GOP may very well be on its way to extinction, and with it a voice that defended liberty in a world of ever growing state power.