May 16, 2023


The Republican Party Isn't A Political Party (Anymore) (DENNIS SANDERS, MAY 16, 2023, Ordinary Times)

In a democracy, political parties select candidates, mobilize voters, raise money for candidates and hold government accountable, among other things. These are all duties that the Republican Party used to do. However, over the last few years, they have lost control of each of these functions. Some of this has happened under "reforms" that ended up weakening the power of political parties. Reforms like the primary system have weakened both major parties, but while it might have damaged the Democrats, it eviscerated the Republicans by driving out moderates and lifting up fringe candidates. One of the earliest examples came in 2010 when moderate Republican Mike Castle a representative from Delaware was on tap to become the next Senator for the First State. But an unknown candidate named Christine O'Donnell beat Castle in the primary and the seat went from a sure thing for the GOP to a Democratic seat.

You could say that O'Donnell's horrible showing was a fluke. But looking back from 2022, l'affaire "I'm not a witch" was prophetic. The GOP couldn't control keeping a nut job from winning the GOP nomination in a small state like Delaware. That was a warning Klaxon that the party structure of the GOP was brittle and ripe of someone to bring the entire national structure down.

Donald Trump may not be smart, but he can sense weakness and the GOP was a wounded animal in the woods. The national party had no way to stop him and the primary system allowed him to win a plurality. I can remember in 2016 commentators like Ross Douthat talking about how "the party decides," meaning the party had a way of getting rid of crazy candidates like Trump. But "the party decides" amounted to primary voters who wanted Trump.

The reason Trump won the GOP over isn't because of a racist, crazy base. Crazy people in a democracy is a given. Racist people in a democracy are a given. But political parties should be able to screen candidates before they happen to have their finger on the button. Political Parties aren't there to give the voters what they want but to give them competent candidates. The reason Trump is in control of the GOP and could possibly become president again is that the Republicans have no way of stopping someone like Trump from even becoming a serious candidate.

Once Trump was in control of the party he sought to make it a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Trump organization. He got rid of the rest of the decaying structure that didn't suit his purposes. For example, a political party spends a lot of time crafting a party platform that serves as a guide of what the party is all about and it is expected that party candidates will try to hewn as close to the platform as possible. But Trump didn't care about tax policy or the status or Puerto Rico. So, there was no platform in 2020 except supporting Donald Trump.

Donald Trump succeeded in finishing off the GOP as a political party. All of the functions of a party are spun off to other groups, many of which Trump controls. What the GOP is now is a lifestyle brand, and branding is something Donald Trump understands.

Posted by at May 16, 2023 2:35 PM