Once a major party that elected two presidents, the Whigs dissolved in 1856 over the issue of slavery. From the ashes arose what became the anti-slavery Republican Party.
Today, 165 years later – plagued with deep ruptures – it’s possible the Republican Party could dissolve in a decade or two. The critical question: Is Trump adoration by the GOP base akin to the Whig’s splintering over slavery?
Although an overused political cliché, here are five reasons the Republican Party could “go the way of the Whigs.”
Voters are abandoning the GOP for diametrically opposed reasons
Last week, after writing about why I left the “Trumplican Party,” I was deluged with two types of emails. First, long-time Republican friends and readers of The Hill applauded my “bold” and “brave” declaration of independence after doing the same.
Second were messages from (now) ex-friends leaving the party for “totally different reasons than you listed.” Their “disappointment” stems from “so-called Republicans that failed to support Trump and defend him.” One wrote that I am “part of the problem with the Republican Party,” and another stated how “no longer would we break bread.”
Rising passions resulting in double subtraction generates a political equation with GOP decline as the answer.
“Cancer for the Republican Party”
During the June 1973 Senate Watergate Committee hearings, White House Counsel John Dean testified that he had told President Nixon of a “cancer growing on the presidency.” Nixon eventually resigned but left the Republican Party severely damaged. Recovery, in the form of a political savior, came in 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected president.
On Monday, the cancer analogy dramatically resurfaced. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) alluded to how Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is contaminating the entire party with “loony lies and conspiracy theories,” warning of “cancer for the Republican Party.”
Unfortunately, whatever treatment plan McConnell and GOP House leaders put into motion, it’s too late. Greene’s “cancer” has metastasized into the Republican label, and she is the brand’s angry new face. Worse, Greene stating that Trump “supports me 100 percent” highlights her face with professional make-up. Unless eradicated, cancer is often deadly for people and political parties. Now the party is suffering in a white nationalist ICU bed with stage 4 cancer — thanks to Trump and Greene.
Republican identity crisis
Given the “cancer” diagnosis, corporate and major donors are fleeing. And why would average Americans want to identify as Republicans? Soon, they must defend a party that acquitted their president after he incited a deadly insurrection to overturn a certified election based on his “Big Lie.” The Republican identity crisis is defined by its new “membership card slogan” reading, “We stand for shredding the Constitution’s impeachment clause and nullifying lost elections.”
Here is an easily defined problem that sticks to the party like Super Glue: “Are you with Trump or against Trump?”
In a recent interview, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel made a laughable assessment, saying, “.. if we don’t keep our party united and focused on 2022, we will lose.” But “united and focused” around who? Mar-a-Lago is currently the Republican headquarters. Its occupant – a twice-impeached former president who in one term led his party to lose control of the White House, Senate and House while inciting a horrific attack on the Capitol – is the undisputed party leader. Any senators or representatives who want to purge Trump by voting for impeachment and conviction will face agonizing reelections or choose to step down. Conversely, watch if Trump acolyte Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson dares to run for reelection.
While the party’s future is viewed through the Trump lens, a strong new prescription is needed to see and eradicate the “Big Lie.” Sadly, according to one poll, 76 percent of Republicans believe Trump defeated Joe Biden. But this week, a ray of hope surfaced when Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio released a campaign autopsy showing that the former president lost “largely because of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.” Moreover, his data show that Trump “lost ground among key demographic groups.”
Armed with Fabrizio’s autopsy, all GOP leaders (but especially 2024 presidential hopefuls) must undo Trump’s Big Lie about the stolen election. If they collectively fail to do so, there is no uniting, no future, and the party deserves not just to lose but to dissolve.
Sixty-seven percent of the 2020 electorate was white, down from 70 percent in 2016. Trump won 58 percent of this shrinking majority, compared to 41 percent for Biden. But the growing non-white vote was 33 percent, which Biden won 71 percent to Trump’s 26 percent.
On the bright side, Trump increased his percentage of Hispanic voters from 28 percent to 32 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of Hispanics in the electorate rose to 13 percent, from 11 percent in 2016. Trump also won more Black voters, 12 percent compared to 8 percent in 2016. Still, the Republican Party has a lot of catching up to do with non-white voters. Are demographics destiny? Yes, when combined with the all reasons above. For if the GOP goes “the way of the Whigs,” demographics would accelerate the demise already in motion.
Ultimately, the one saving grace that could keep the GOP in business is Democratic overreach — liberalism gone wild, political correctness run amok and tanking the economy with progressive policies. And all that will start happening in 3, 2, 1.
Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and writes a Sunday Bible study on Townhall. She served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.