There seems to be a revolution of sorts going on in the Republican Party, many say the party is dead since the party elites seem to have lost control to Donald Trump and his followers. But is the party actually dead?
A Party in Disarray
The destruction of the GOP began in 2010 with the emergence of the Tea Party which split the party into two ideological camps who are at war with each other. The Tea Party believes that the GOP lost the 2006 and 2008 elections because the GOP leaders lost sight of true conservative Republican values.
This split in the party seriously weakened the strength of the party, as Tea Party candidates often run against traditional Republican candidates for many state and local offices. This often ends up with a
Democrat winning the election or a Tea Party candidate who feels no loyalty to the Republican Party taking office.
The GOP certainly helped confuse its members by having twenty-two candidates file to run for President of the United States under the Republican banner in 2016. It isn’t unusual for any party to have a lot of declared candidates that whittles down to reasonable number of qualified candidates before the first debates are held.
However, there were so many candidates still running by the first few debates that they had to have pre-debates for the candidates with smaller polling numbers. Even with this debate split, there were so many candidates that the debates became a complete joke to most that tuned in to hear real details about what the party representatives planned for our country. The debates became an insult and shouting match, so the loudest voice dominated the debates.
The Republican Party Created Donald Trump the Candidate
Yes, I said it. The GOP created Donald Trump the candidate and turned him into the presumptive nominee. Trump declared his intention to seek the presidency back in June of 2015 and was initially considered one of the many “also rans” that every election seems to have these days.
But although Trump was considered a buffoon to the party elite, the registered Republicans were hearing what they wanted to hear. The people were upset with the party whom they put in office to combat the policies of Barack Obama, only to have them roll over and fund every program he asked for. So along comes Donald Trump, bashing the politics as usual of the GOP and promising to “Make America Great Again”.
Suddenly, Trump’s poll numbers are at the top or close to the top of almost every poll going into the debates and he has gone from the joke entry, to someone people want to hear from. Trump’s use of social media helps fuel the rank and file’s desire to hear more and the debates are set up in a fashion where policy details don’t matter, but insults and showmanship are the stars of the night.
The debates were perfectly set up for Donald Trump. With the overcrowded stage allowing limited time for each candidate, his ability to draw attention to himself through brash comments and facial expressions made him stand out even more against the boring collection of politicians on stage.
Instead of his lack of political experience being shown as detriment by the seasoned politicians, Trump used it as a badge of honor, turning the tables on them and using his lack of political knowledge as proof that he wasn’t already bought and paid for as he suggested they were. This was further enhanced by him self-funding his campaign.
The Party Continues to Fracture
The stronger Trump’s campaign gets, the more the party seems to fracture. Ted Cruz’s desperate attempts to derail the “Trump Train” by aligning with John Kasich and then stupidly announcing Carly Fiorina as his VP running mate when it wasn’t possible for him to do so, both failed.
For the record, because Cruz could not get enough delegates to win the nomination, his only shot at being nominated was a contested convention. In a contested convention, the nominee does not pick the VP running mate, the convention does. This is why it was a desperate and stupid attempt to stop Trump’s momentum, as it wasn’t even remotely possible.
Now that Trump is the presumptive nominee (he still needs to get the required number of delegates before becoming the actual nominee) the party seems even more on the edge. The Republican Super-PAC’s that were created to stop someone running as a Republican have failed to slow him down. Backroom collusions between candidates failed and many of the elite have angered the party voters by saying they would rather have Hillary Clinton win than Donald Trump.
The party even unleashed Mitt Romney on Trump and he continues to attack Trump on his tax records and more still. But the attacks all seem to have the reverse effect, Trump’s numbers continue to grow, in fact he is now in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton and he’s barely even started going after her yet.
A further divide was created when Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan said he was just not ready to support Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for President. Mitt Romney, members of the Bush family and other top Republicans have also declined to endorse Trump publicly.
Is the Party Healing in Time to Achieve Victory?
Trump met with Paul Ryan in Washington D.C. on Thursday, and while Ryan was not ready to make an endorsement, some common ground was found and they released a joint statement:
“We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there’s a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall, and we are totally committed to working together to achieve that goal.”
Certainly a good sign, but is it enough? When so many of the party elites have fought against trump every step of the way, can they really rally behind him to defeat Hillary Clinton? While many of those GOP leaders expressed a desire to have Hillary over Donald, it is still very early in the game, and as we approach the General Election things may change.
What Could Happen
Actually, for the party to survive, things definitely need to change, because the Republican Party may not actually survive a Trump loss in the General Election. This would not be seen as just another failed Republican attempt for the White House, this would be seen as the sabotage of a candidate they didn’t control by party elites.
The failure of Trump to win the election will no longer be seen as his failure, but that of the party for not supporting him one hundred percent. Hillary Clinton will have the opportunity to appoint 2-4 Supreme Court Justice’s which will tip the court to the left for the next 30-50 years and most certainly damage the Second Amendment amongst other Republican values.
This will lead to either a mass exodus of the party or a party takeover of sorts by the Tea Party or even the Libertarian Party, just as they did with the NRA when the leadership failed to protect the Second Amendment.
One thing is certain, the GOP will not emerge from a Trump loss with the same power structure they have now. Sure the elites may still control the party afterwards, but if the people no longer support the party just as they didn’t support their candidates, then the party really will have died.
In case you haven’t noticed, a new cold war is brewing, and there are quite a few people to blame for it. We aren’t there yet, but we are certainly on our way, and both sides are preparing for it.
Russia Declares a New Cold War
In February at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany, the most dramatic speech given was about the Cold War, by Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev. But he wasn’t reminiscing about the good old days, he was talking about the present.
In a very long and rambling speech, his key point was quite sobering: We are in a new Cold War, and that this year, 2016, reminded him of 1962. 1962 was of course the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the entire world was on the brink of nuclear war. Not exactly the best message to bring to a security conference.
He was clearly sent to provide the rest of the world with the view that Moscow has of the current world situation. This was blown off by many analysts and Russians as a friendly cautionary tale to remind us of Russia’s stance, as we continue to levy sanctions on them for the invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.
To many others, there was nothing friendly about this, this was a threat by the Russians that if things don’t start going their way (lift the sanctions against them, let Assad continue to rule in Syria, show Russia more respect) then this new Cold War will indeed become a reality.
How Strong Is Russia?
Russia will always be strong militarily, that isn’t the concern. The worry is a weak Russian economy caused by falling oil prices and sanctions against them. This has put significant pressure on Putin’s administration, so some sabre rattling to show his strength to the Russian people is almost expected.
Along with declining demographics, Russia also suffers from a significant alcohol and drug problem that are out of control. Heroin as well as Spice, a synthetic, highly-addictive Russian drug that is smoked and often deadly, have both seen heavy use in recent years. The currency crisis, which hit Russia at the end of 2014, is doubling the cost of these drugs, but they are so addicting that it is doubtful people will use less.
Russia has a handful of difficult challenges, a falling life expectancy, an economy dependent on commodities, and the lack of a transparent democracy, although there have been some modest demographic improvements recently.
We should not be afraid of Russian strength, but the Russian weaknesses mentioned above, because they still possess a very powerful military and the will to use it. Plus, they have over 7,000 nuclear weapons and Russia is significantly modernizing its nuclear arsenal. It has also deployed Iskander-M nuclear capable missiles to its Kaliningrad enclave. They also seem to enjoy reminding the world that they possess those weapons and could be willing to use them.
Russia Steps Up Confrontations
Last month, two Russian fighter planes flew close to a US guided missile destroyer almost a dozen times in the Baltic Sea. Russia’s envoy to Nato said the destroyer had sailed close to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad in an attempt by the United States to exercise military pressure on Russia.
Last week, the US accused a Russian jet fighter of aggressively intercepting a US Air Force reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. The Russian jet had performed a barrel roll around the reconnaissance plane. This has happened twice in the last month.
To be fair, anyone that has ever served in the US NAVY has probably experienced such flybys by Russian aircraft, it is a fairly common practice performed by many different nations who are not at war with each other, especially during the cold war times, and we do it to other nations as well.
But such encounters have raised fears of a full-on confrontation, be it deliberate or accidental. One mistake by someone being bold or scared during one of these encounters could start a conflict between two of the world’s great military powers.
The American Response
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlined plans to deploy a third US Army combat brigade in Europe in the coming year. He said it was part of a 3.4-billion-dollar initiative to reassure Nato allies of US commitment to their security and to deter Russian aggression.
“We haven’t had to prioritize deterrence on NATO’s eastern flank for the past 25 years, but while I wish it were otherwise, now we have to,” he said.
“We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia,” Carter added.
But he also promised to continue a military build-up on NATO’s eastern flank as a deterrent against war.
Carter told reporters traveling with him of the plan to send troops to the Baltic states and Poland, which have been lobbying for a more robust NATO permanent presence. NATO is currently saddled by multiple security challenges that include an aggressive Russian Federation, ISIS and a migrant crisis in Europe.
America’s military is no longer viewed as the dominate force around the world that it once was though. Incidents like the Iranian’s capturing American sailors who drifted into their territorial waters and the pictures of the American sailors with their hands on their heads certainly do not project strength.
Back and Forth
Russian officials have repeatedly said their own buildup and exercises are a response to NATO’s troop buildup and their aggressive posture towards Moscow. “NATO borders are getting closer to the Russian Federation, not the opposite”, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
While we may be nowhere near the tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this back and forth buildup of troops and arms is certainly reminiscent of those days. Thankfully the two nations still communicate with each other often and still participate together in ventures like the International Space Station, which is far better than any cooperation in the 1960’s.
As long as sanctions remain against Russia, the buildup of arms and troops will probably continue as a weak Russian Federation is a dangerous one. NATO forces countering those Russian moves simply continues the buildup until the New Cold War becomes a reality. Apparently, we don’t learn much from our own history after all.