None of us has the ability to perfectly predict what current event will be meaningful one hundred years from now. Some things are easy (the attacks on 9/11 for instance), but others are much harder to predict. It’s starting to feel possible, maybe not yet likely though, that we’re witnessing a real split in the republican party. In a simplified version of reality, the party has two groups. It has the classic republicans who feel strongly about free-markets, deregulation, private solutions over government involvement, individual responsibility, low taxes, and those kinds of things. These are the fiscal conservatives who are more likely to be socially liberal, or at least agnostic on social issues. The party also has the social conservatives. This group is where the white nationalists thrive. This is the group that is anti-immigration, feels the “fabric of America” is slipping away (which I can’t explain other than America becoming a more diverse pool of ethnicities), they have, or at least had, strong opinions about morality and decency, and this helps fuel their dislike of “gay culture” that they see as flamboyant, gratuitous, and indecent. At the same time, they balked at the way the government made them be fair to minorities. They way the government had anything to say about the way of life (that was great for them, even if less so for others). People who felt that we were once the base of the democratic party, but found themselves without a satisfying political home when the democrats became the party of civil rights, and stopped being the party of the KKK. That’s when the adoption of the southern strategy and the inclusion of the Reagan Democrats paid off, and brought a big win for Reagan. His characterization of government as something to be feared hit home, and his attacks on the welfare queen driving a Cadillac fit well with their feeling that they were being pushed out of the society they once dominated. And the party has balanced these two groups ever since, and somehow managed them well. The fiscal conservatives seemed to become more socially conservative and the social conservatives became more fiscally conservative. They had a comfortable balance. Trump is disrupting that.
The Trump presidency brings a whole new feel to the GOP. One where the social conservatives are dominating. The fiscal conservatives are getting some love, but the issues that resonated with the social conservative wing are far more front and center. Even Obamacare repeal, which is spun as a fiscal conservative kind of thing, has much more of a social conservative feel to it. It’s a gut hatred for anything Obama, and a gut hatred for government involvement. Of course, preference for private sector solutions is a key element of the fiscal conservatives, and Obamacare was really a win for private sector solutions, much more than a single payer system would have been. It’s an adoption of the ideas of the conservative Heritage Foundation that were pushed as a response to HillaryCare efforts during the Clinton years. But it was characterized as government overreach, and one more thing that the government was shoving down our throats. Perhaps, when we look back, we’ll see that this is really when the tension became a problem. And by tension, I don’t mean tension between wings of the party (these were well aligned here), but I mean internal tension. Cognitive dissonance arising within the fiscal conservatives who could see that they won (meaning they got what they had asked for originally, and that should have sat well with their private solutions hearts), but were forced to denounce that win so the democrats wouldn’t get credit for it. This pushed them deeper into the arms of the gut reaction side, the visceral anti-government side, because there was no way to be against it (at least to be against most of it) from the fiscal conservative side. So these circumstances forced the fiscal conservatives into a corner. They could accept the ideas that were appealing to them in the past, and give a win to a president from the other party, or they could feed on the gut resistance from the social conservative folks, and hope to get back in power. They chose the latter.
Listen to Michael Steele talk about what’s happening now. Video here (a facebook account may be needed): https://www.facebook.com/SiriusXMPolitics/videos/1974277909483076/
Put that together with the republicans who came out against him over the last couple of days (see this earlier post), and the fight the President is fighting with well-respected republicans like Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham, and it’s not impossible to see things shifting.