Politically Uncorrected: The GOP’s Real Dilemma

081025_gop_logoWhat has happened to the GOP – and what should be done about it?

Clearly the party is on the precipice of a disaster. But it’s a precipice familiar in the history of American political parties. What is happening to Republicans is not pleasant, but it is not unique. At least four times since the Civil War era, major parties have imploded from internal pressures among competing wings of the party.  Indeed, the GOP in 2016 had a good chance of being torn apart with or without Trump, given the party’s gaping divisions on the urgent questions of the day.

However, no party as strife-torn as the present GOP has ever won the presidency. The list of those that have tried and failed is long and sobering and includes both Democrats and Republicans.

In the 1850s, it was the national Whig Party that fell apart over the slavery issue when it’s northern and southern wings split apart. After the split, the Whigs never won another presidential election and soon ceased functioning as a major party.

During the 1890’s populist uprisings, it was Democrat-infighting that split their party so thoroughly that they only won two presidential elections between 1896 and 1932.

Republicans accomplished the same during the Teddy Roosevelt insurrection in 1912 when the former president bolted the party after failing to secure the Republican nomination. He subsequently ran as the “Bull Moose” Progressive Party nominee, badly dividing the Republican Party and enabled Woodrow Wilson to capture the presidency for two terms. The GOP actually finished third that year, the only time that has happened to a major party outside the Civil War era

More recently, the disastrous 1968 Democratic Chicago convention, driven by acrimony over the Vietnam War, produced riots in Lincoln Park that spilled out onto the streets of Chicago. Witnessed by millions on television, the Chicago riots, the nomination of Hubert Humphry as a pro-war candidate at that time, and some ugly scenes inside the convention arena allowed Richard Nixon to narrowly defeat Hubert Humphrey in November.

All these examples provide vivid testimony to the fate awaiting a party riven with division and factionalism – as were the Whigs in the 1850s, the Democrats in the 1890s, the Republicans in 1912, the Democrats in the late 1960s – and now the GOP in 2016.

What has happened to the GOP in 2016 is much less important than what Republicans do about it. Losing a presidential election is survivable, even strengthening for a party. No better recent example exists then the Republican’s shocking loss in 1964 when Democrat Lyndon Johnson beat Republican Barry Goldwater, winning 61 percent of the popular vote. Johnson’s victory encouraged many pundits to predict the end of the Republican Party.  Yet, the GOP went on to win five of the next six presidential elections.

But losing a presidential election and losing a party at the same time is not survivable as the Whigs of the 1850s demonstrated. This is the real dilemma for the Republicans in 2016. Can they lose an election without losing a party?

There are probably two main ways they can lose a party. One is to promote independent or third party candidacies that will only erode Trump’s fragile electoral strength, while defeating efforts to achieve some measure of party unity. Trump is unlikely to win the presidential race, but how he loses it matters. That was the main lesson of 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt’s third party efforts relegated the GOP to minor party status and a third place finish.

The other main way the GOP can lose a party in 2016 is to lose their majorities in Congress.  Presently, Republicans hold a narrow four seat margin over Democrats in the Senate with Republicans defending 24 of the 34 seats up for election in 2016. Democratic control of the U. S. Senate is clearly in reach even without a weak GOP presidential nominee.

In an era of, increasingly, straight ticket voting, Trump likely will be the inevitable drag on “down ticket” races, including Senate seats. In fact, Republican Senators in clearly “endangered” seats are already moving away from Trump while polishing their bona fides as “independents.”

The situation in the House seems much less perilous for Republicans since the GOP now hold a substantial 246 to 188-seat edge. Yet some analysts are already speculating that a Trump ticket might threaten Republican control of the House as well as the Senate.

In a political year in which almost all assumptions have been turned on their head, Republicans would be foolish to assume the House is safe.

The strategic imperative for the GOP is clear: protect its congressional majorities while holding the national party together at the presidential level. Tactically, this means to fund the presidential race with as much money as necessary – not more money than necessary – to show the flag.

A Democratic president and a Republican Congress would be a status quo election for the country, a bitter disappointment for Democrats and a huge victory for Republicans.

The GOP will have lost an election but kept a party. Before this election is over that might look like a pretty good deal.

20 Responses

  1. Great post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I am impressed! Very useful info specifically the final section 🙂 I take care of such information a lot. I was looking for this particular information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.


  2. Agnes (I like to pretend to be a journalist) Bedard couldnt predict an election if her life dependeded on it. IJS. She loves Trump though, which tells you all you need to know.

  3. I take issue with the seers. The GOP will unite for this election to a degree whereby Trump will win. Hillary will not survive. She is another lawless Obama, a liar, a socialist, who will disregard the rule of law as she has in the past. The people are tired of having another self-anointed dictator. She is implicated with the murders in Benghazi, and her criminal activity in her past for many years will be enough to say, NO to her by informed voters. And to Democrat voters, perhaps they will vote against her for stating to Dick Morris in 2005, Democrat voters are “plain stupid” and “easy to manipulate”. Or, maybe I am just dreaming for the latter will become more informed of this lawless woman.

  4. Mr. Todd – Pretending they the D party is “broken because the Grand ol Party is a mess … It doesn’t work. Try something else!!

  5. Very detailed piece on the demise of the GOP. We await tomorrow’s piece where we stop pretending not to notice that Hillary might very well not take enough of her own Democratic primary voters to beat this Trump guy. You know: the one who can’t take enough of the only other team allowed at the table to beat her.

    Time for some for more choices allowed at the table. If that means the two broken parties can stay, great. If not, OK too.

  6. I’m not voting for Trump, but I believe too many political experts aren’t facing the fact that Hillary has so many negatives and has been around too long. In 92 when the Clinton / Gore ticket ended 12 years consecutive, and 24 out of 28 years of Republican presidents, they seemed like new, young leaders. Now, both Bill and Hillary seem so old and tired. It’s a shame that 2 years ago Martin O’Malley failed to build a campaign that could overtake Hillary. But the Democratic establishment want Hillary, so we might end up with President Trump.

  7. Let that the piece of shit party die and split into two new parties. I hope the Democratic Party bites the dust too. We need a new system.

  8. Nope. How does that make me a cry baby or an idiot to think someone who advocates for unachievable goals, promising pixie dust and fairy tales or an unaccomplished candidate that may be in jail in november is as bad as a guy with verbal diarrhea and a caricature of himself? Please respond with substance and not an insult. I’m happy to have this discourse.

  9. I doubt that AG Kane would have signed the “minority report” discussed below. But I have no problem believing that Frank Fina, Seth Williams and Stephen Zappala did. Those creeps don’t even care about innocent people in prison for crimes they did not commit:

    “From PennLive article — “The committee’s work took four long years but, in 2011, it released its report, a 316-page tome that thoroughly analyzed the causes of wrongful convictions and offered a series of recommendations to fix the problem.

    The committee’s recommendations included greater preservation of biological evidence, changes in witness interviews and photo lineups, state-based funding for indigent defense services, video and audio recording of interrogations, and compensation for people who are wrongly convicted.

    Unfortunately, law enforcement, led by the District Attorneys’ association, released its own minority report.

    That minority report diminished the committee’s recommendations and refused to even acknowledge the reality of innocent people in prison.

    Signers of the minority report included Ed Marsico, Frank Fina, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.

    Perhaps most appalling of all, the minority report called the idea of compensating wrongly convicted people “preposterous.”

    Apparently – Frank Fina thinks he deserves taxpayer $$$ and has sued the State trying to get some. But – he doesn’t think innocent people who get sent to jail by corrupt prosecutors like him should recover. Shame on him. No wonder Kane made firing him the first thing she did when she became AG. The 2nd thing was to image his hard-drive. Thank God she had the sense to do that.

    We would never know about the corrupt assholes that litter the criminal justice system.

  10. Hey HaHaHa aka Brett Aka Jailbird. This story is about you. Are you going to pay the money back you stole from the elderly.
    Unsanctioned R2 says:
    May 11, 2016 at 4:18 pm
    Hey HaAHA aka Brett look you made the news when Fina arrested and convicted you. It’s nice to know that public sources still have this information. You gonna pay back any of the money you stole.
    Brett Cott
    HARRISBURG –Bonusgate defendent Brett Cott received a sentence of 21 to 60 months on three charges this morning.
    He also received three fines totaling $11,000 and was told to make restitution to the state of $50,000. The sentence was imposed by Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis, who rejected Mr. Cott’s defense attorny’s plea for probation. Mr. Cott was found guilty on three charges: conflict of interest, theft of services, and conspiracy.
    The office of state Attorney General Tom Corbett had argued for a stiff sentence, claiming Mr. Cott had seriously misused taxpayer dollars in running as many as 20 political campaigns in Western Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2006.
    Mr. Cott’s attorney, Bryan Walk, had claimed that the prosecution was political and said that Mr. Cott was aqcuitted on 39 of 42 charges brought against him. However Judge Lewis said that Mr. Cott’s offenses were serious and deserved time in state prison.
    Read the sentencing memo for Brett Cott.
    The judge said Mr. Cott spent most of his time that was paid for on taxpayer dollars “orchestrating and mastermining political activity.” The judge said “public money was used like monopoly money to run campaigns. Some potential candidates were scared off by this taxpayer funded juggernaut. The public was also victimized.”
    He said probation was not an option because that “would demean the seriousness of the crimes.”
    Deputy Attorney General Patrick Blessington said that Mr. Cott was paid salary of $223,000 plus bonuses of over $39,000 from 2004 to 2006 for basically running political campaigns. Mr. Cott is the first of the Bonusgate defendents to be sentenced.
    Reactions to the sentence from prosecutors and the defense differed markedly.
    The stiff sentence “sends a loud and clear message that this kind of activity [illegal use of taxpayers funds for political campaigns] will not be tolerated, and people will pay for their crimes,” said Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo.
    In a brief submitted to the judge, the state contended that Mr. Cott’s “demeanor” wasn’t appropriate, meaning he hadn’t shown “contrition or remorse” for his illegal actions. He said Mr. Cott’s ongoing defiant attitude and lack of remorse were “appropriate legal factors” to be considered during the sentencing.
    Lawyer Walk, however, said he was shocked and “extremely disappointed” by the severity of the sentence, which could keep Mr. Cott in state prison for up to five years.
    “There are drug dealers and violent offenders who don’t get that much time,” he said. “We didn’t expect this.”
    He said that since Mr. Cott had no previous arrests or convictions, and since the jury had found him not guilty on 39 of the 42 charges that the state brought against him, he should have gotten probation and no jail time.
    Mr. Walk said the judge’s sentencing decision seemed to have been already prepared, even before this morning’s hearing, where the defense attorney spent almost an hour saying what a hard worker and good person Mr. Cott is.
    Mr. Walk said that if two of the original Bonusgate defendants, former House Democratic staffers Mike Manzo and Jeff Foreman — who made a deal to cooperate with the state and testified against Mr. Cott, “don’t get sentences that are more than Mr. Cott’s, then justice is dead.”

  11. Can’t compare Trump to poor D candidates. Sorry. You just can’t. When you try, you sound like an idiot or a crybaby … or both.

  12. You miss the bigger picture, Terry and other anti hop enthusiasts. I think Trump is a total pathetic presidential representative, but what about the Democratic nominees? Everyone sucks. A failed and scandal ridden candidate who has trouble looking at one victory notch. Then… Bernie freaking Sanders? The anti Hillary candidate? Promising trillions in unachievable promises that people actually believe? Trump just happens to be the loudest Jack ass. Not only the GOP is in trouble. It’s our entire electorate who seem to have no clue what goes on and what an elected official does and should do.

  13. Donald Trump is a disaster for GOP and would be even worse for USA.

  14. Good luck with that!!

    Trump is taking ALL OF YOU down. It’s sooooo fun to watch.

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