On July 19, 2016 presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump seized control of the Grand Old Party. His fringe populism was expected to dictate the party’s ebb and flow for the remainder of the general election, but the party’s long-term destiny would still be in the hands of the Republican establishment. Although wary of a Trumpian overthrow, the logic within the establishment class went something like this: give Trump his desired treasure, reign in his frivolities, and puppeteer him as a vehicle for driving a conservative agenda. Trump won his treasured prize but the Republican establishment miscalculated influence. What was supposedly a brief seizure of the Republican Party quickly turned into a surreptitiously calculated onslaught. On the morning of November 9, 2016, the Republican establishment did not wake up cradling their prized victory, they awoke effectively captured and compromised by what was now the Party of Trump.
Since election day, we have seen Donald Trump’s class of fringe outsiders gain access and power within the uppermost reaches of our American government. Brietbart executive Steve Bannon was quickly named chief strategist and senior counselor to the President and, shortly thereafter, was appointed to the National Security Council. Stephen Miller, who has advised various far-right politicians, was named as a Senior Advisor to the President and pens most of the President’s major speeches. And Sebastian Gorka, an editor for Bannon’s Brietbart and rogue security advisor, was appointed as an assistant deputy to the President.
It is not necessarily a novel idea surmising that the Trump presidency is shifting the fabric of the Republican Party, but the notion is becoming less of a conspiratorial conception and more of an unwelcome reality. Trump’s enablers are consolidating power and the Republican establishment is being replaced, almost despotically. GW: do you think the next part answers this or should I be more explicit here) Since Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House he has spearheaded a campaign to eviscerate the establishment. Bannon barnstorms Republican-held districts trumpeting the overthrow of the establishment, recruiting donors and fringe candidates to challenge Republican Senators in the 2018 primaries. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Bannon said, “We are declaring war on the Republican establishment that does not back the agenda Trump ran on.… Nobody is safe.” Bannon went further, claiming that he has formed a coalition to challenge “every Republican incumbent except for Ted Cruz.” Bannon’s efforts are shifting the GOP into a toxic brand of politics.
With pressures crystalizing from the right-wing of the party, the Republican establishment class is faltering and becoming marginalized. Senator Luther Strange has been dropped by Bannon’s coalition in his defeat against Roy Moore. Senator Bob Corker has chosen to retire instead of seeking re-election. Senator Dean Heller is in the crossfire between Bannon’s political cronies and former Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s choice candidate, Jacky Rosen. Straight-talking Conservative Jeff Flake recently announced his decision not to seek re-election after his excoriation of President Trump and the mounting political pressure that it brought on. And John McCain, a giant of the Senate respected on by both parties, is battling cancer while also taking flak from Bannon’s right-wing flank.
Although many of these Republican Senators facing political upheaval have voted in-line with President Trump, business-as-usual for the party ceases to exist. The fringe political class that has ascended in tandem with President Trump is corroding the Republican Party as we once knew it, thereby bringing radical and toxic changes to the substance and style of the party. Championing the politics of ‘the culture wars,’ a Trumpian inspired Republican Party attempts to sow discord and enmity between the American people for political gain. Blame is cast while solutions are neglected. Thoughtful, conservative measures are not pursued, but, instead, baseless reactionary responses are encouraged. A small fissure within the Republican Party has fermented an existential crisis. Former President George W. Bush recently put it succinctly, “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.” The Republican Party has been captured by the Party of Trump, or perhaps a cult of personality, and we are only beginning to see the dire consequences of it across our country.