The increased likelihood of Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee, as evidenced by his win in Florida and other states last week, spells the end of the Republican Party as we have known it. Successful political parties unite interests under a broadly shared policy agenda. The Clinton Democrats may seem ethically challenged, condescending and bordering on dictatorial, but they share basic positions on many core issues and a unifying belief in federal power as the favored instrument for change.
In contrast, the Republican Party consists of interest groups that so broadly dislike each other that they share little common ground.
GOP libertarians want more social freedoms; social conservatives want less. Neocons hunger for war, while most other Republicans, both libertarian and constitutionalist conservatives, reject Bushian interventionism. The rising populist wave now inundating the party and driving the Trump juggernaut both detests, and is detested by, the party’s media, corporate and intellectual establishment.
Some “movement” conservatives are returning the favor, essentially blaming the white working class for their own failures. Among some on the right, it appears, capitalism and the law of the jungle are always noble, and those who fail to make the grade clearly are not. No surprise, then, that the new generation of voters seems more ready for socialism than for laissez faire.
Against weak and squabbling opposition, Trump has employed his crude persona, and equally crude politics, to dominate the primaries to date. But in the process he has broken not only the party structure, but also its spirit. Indeed, some of the party’s most promising emerging leaders, such as Nebraska U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, have made it clear they cannot support a candidate who seems to have little respect for the Constitution, or any other cherished principle.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A