Republican Party Divided: No Clear Path Forward


Ronna McDaniel has become the longest-serving leader of the Republican National Committee since the Civil War. But now she faces a modern civil war within the GOP.

Frustrated Republicans from state capitols to Capitol Hill to the luxury Southern California hotel where RNC members gathered this week are at odds over how to reverse six years of election disappointments. And while there are many strong feelings, there is no consensus, even among the fighting factions, on who, what policies, or what political tactics they should adopt.

On one side: a growing number of elected officials eager to move beyond the divisive politics and personality of former President Donald Trump despite the lack of a clear alternative. And on the other: the vocal “Make America Great Again” wing of the GOP, which has no cohesive agenda but is quick to attack the status quo on both sides.

“It will be extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible, for Ronna McDaniel to pick up the pieces,” said Republican fundraiser Caroline Wren, a leading voice in the coalition of far-right activists, conservative media executives and local elected officials across the country who fought and failed to defeat McDaniel. “These people aren’t just going to forget.”

RNC Members Left The Waldorf Astoria

Indeed, as RNC members left the Waldorf Astoria ballroom on Friday, there was broad agreement that McDaniel’s re-election alone would do little to close the gaping chasm that afflicts their party. , even as she celebrated a particularly decisive re-election victory.

Trump was quick to praise McDaniel for her social media platform after privately helping her with her campaign. But conservative activist Charlie Kirk, a Trump loyalist, likened McDaniel’s successful re-election to a “middle finger” for the GOP base who demanded changes within the institution that directs the party’s political activities.

“The country club won today,” Kirk said from the back of the Waldorf Astoria ballroom where RNC members across the country voted to give McDaniel another two-year term. “So people who can’t afford a steak and are struggling to make ends meet have just been told by their reps in an opulent $900 a night hotel that ‘we hate you’ .

Similar sentiment rocked the Republican Party earlier in the month on Capitol Hill as Kevin McCarthy weathered days of embarrassing defeats in his quest to become Speaker of the House before acquiescing to the demands of the anti-establishment MAGA fringe.

McCarthy’s failure to rein in Trump’s hardliners at his conference now threatens to undermine a high-stakes vote on the country’s debt limit that could send shockwaves through the US economy. it is not resolved quickly. So far, House Republicans have made no specific demands.

Some see the Republican divide as a byproduct of the GOP’s embrace of Trumpism for years, a political ideology defined by its relentless focus on a common enemy and its willingness to fight that perceived enemy, whatever the cost. .

McDaniel has repeatedly pointed out the dangers of GOP infighting as she campaigns for an unprecedented fourth term as RNC chairwoman. On Friday, she pleaded for Republican unity while citing a Bible verse once used by former President Abraham Lincoln before the Civil War.

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand,” McDaniel said from the ballroom podium. “Nothing we do is more important than making sure Joe Biden is a one-term president. But to do this, we must be united.

It may get worse before it gets better.

The conclusion of the RNC’s winter meeting marks the unofficial start of the 2024 presidential primary season. Trump has already launched his candidacy and promises to campaign fiercely against any potential Republican contender.

The RNC is scheduling the first Republican presidential primary debates, which will likely take place in Milwaukee, the site of the party’s next national convention, in late July or early August.

Although he’s been slow to get into the campaign trail since announcing a 2024 candidacy last November, Trump is hosting events in New Hampshire and South Carolina this weekend. Sensing the former president’s political weakness, no less than a dozen top Republicans are expected to line up against him in the coming months.

Should he fail to land the next GOP presidential nomination, Trump has already suspended the possibility of a third-party presidential nomination, which would virtually guarantee that the Democrats would win the White House again in 2024.

New Hampshire-based RNC member Juliana Bergeron reflected on the state of her party as she prepared to board a red-eyed flight home to attend Trump’s appearance on Saturday. The New Hampshire GOP is working through its own bitter leadership dispute.

“The party in New Hampshire is divided. The party is divided nationally. I just think there’s a lot of space between the far right and some of us,” Bergeron said.

“I think it’s over,” she said when asked about Trump. “I want to see a new generation there.”

And there are signs Trump’s MAGA movement may be ready to move on as well. Some privately acknowledged that Trump had lost control of his own movement, which worked to defeat McDaniel even as the former president and his lieutenants tried to help him.

While Trump declined to publicly endorse McDaniel, Wren said that wouldn’t have changed the grassroots demand for new GOP leadership, even if he had.

“We’re not just sheep following a single endorsement anywhere,” Wren said. “We want to win elections and we don’t win elections.”

Indeed, Republicans may need a successful national election to come together again. The next national election? November 5, 2024.

“The hard work begins now to bring our party together,” said former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus, a former RNC chairman who backed McDaniel’s re-election. “It’s not going to be easy.”

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