The State of the Republican Party

Molly Foley, Kyle Morrison, Kelsey Bumgardner, and Andreas Tonckens
Some people have characterized the apparent chaos within the Republican Party asa sign that it is dying. Trump is a historically unusual and very unorthodoxcandidate. He has created much unrest within the party in terms of ideology. Manyother prominent Republicans have refused to endorse him, and his emergence hascalled into question the strength of the Republican Party. People are nowquestioning the future strength of the Republican Party.
Historical Realignments
In past decades there have been six main realignments of parties. The first partysystem consisted of loose Jeffersonian-Democratic and Federalist parties that manythink were shaped by “issues of governing philosophy and the country’srelationship with England.” The second system involved Jacksonian Democrats andWhigs with constituents mostly divided based on the central issue of slavery. Thethird consisted of newly formed Republicans that replaced the Whigs and the sameDemocrats, but both parties became more clearly sorted by geography. The fourthsystem was characterized as a Republican Party centered around northeastern,industrial constituents and a Democratic party of agrarian and populist constituents.The fifth realignment came with the New Deal and created a Democratic majoritythat wanted a more active government in the economy. Scholars have more recentlycome to acknowledge a sixth system that came with the Civil Rights Movement,creating a divide between the parties based on racial issues.
Realignment or Recalibration?
Will 2016 create a party realignment for Republicans? Realignment occurs whenthe groups supporting each party change, and this is seen over several elections.Some argue that realignments occur in a cyclical pattern every 30 to 40 yearsbecause of the “changing demand of the electorate.” The two main factors that drivea realignment are which party is dominant, and which issues are the main sources ofconflict. As previously mentioned, realignments are often difficult to interpret. Sowhy do people think it is happening in 2016? This is happening because Trump issuch an unusual candidate. He is not well supported by his party and makes people question what Republican voters are looking for. However, Republicans andDemocrats are still divided on many issues such as race, social welfare, abortion, etc.Constituents have not changed how they sort themselves into each party based onthese issues. Parties are still divided into categories such as Black Lives Matteremphasized by Democrats versus the focus on law and order of Republicans. Also,women still tend to vote Democratic while men continue to lean Republican. For anactual realignment to occur, the Republican Party would need to permanently develop a populist element, for example. There is also evidence that both parties are beginning to return to their previous state, and so the possibility of a realignment is unlikely.
Is the Republican Party Dying?
So in relation to historical realignments and what is necessary for one to occur, does
this chaos within the Republican Party indicate their death? Jennifer Victor argues
that this sort of chaos always exists in a party; it just isn’t usually as visible as it is
now. We usually have a certain amount of order in our government because “our
system places severe restrictions on our choices.” We tend to expect government to
act on majority rule and then in response, officials follow the “will of the people.”
However, Victor argues that “the will of the people” often does not exist. If there are
enough coalitions within a party on a certain issue, the majority of the party will
never reach a decision with majority vote. Immigration is given as an example in the
following chart.
Screen Shot 2016-11-03 at 9.36.15 AM.png
Each group prefers a different option for stricter immigration policy. A coalition of Libertarians and Nationalist prefer Wall to Limits, a coalition of Conservatives and Nationalists prefer Deport to Wall, and a coalition of Libertarians and Conservatives prefer Limits to Deport. You can therefore see that the party overall does not have amajority will. This is called a preference cycle, when a different majority preferseach outcome. Placing limits on the legislation that Congress can consider partly hides preference cycles. It’s important to note that preference cycles do not happenwith every issue discussed. However, it is argued that this election is an example of apreference cycle within the Republican Party. Some majorities support Trump whileothers prefer a different candidate. The argument is that this sort of unrest exists allthe time, and that the Republican Party is “longstanding, robust, and diverse” and isalmost certain to survive the chaos Trump has revealed.
Even though Trump has created turmoil within the Republican Party, it seems asthough a realignment is improbable. When comparing how people currently sortthemselves into each party in relation to current issues, one can see that there islittle change from how they have sorted themselves in the past. It is also argued thatpreference cycles cause the type of unrest we are seeing, but that this chaos isalways present within a party. At times it just becomes more evident than others.The Republican Party is sure to withstand this election and persist into the future.

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