Having just won control of the executive and maintaining the control over both house and senate the Republican Party, or the Grand Old Party (GOP), is currently enjoying the traditional honeymoon period associated with American politics. However, unlike other elections, the GOP has now come to a crossroads, which way it will go from here will determine the future of the party for at least the next four years.
The nomination of President-elect Donald Trump to be their candidate led to real issues within the party, sprouting the #nevertrump movement. It is undeniable that had Trump lost the election the #nevertrumpers would have been blamed to an extent, but now the complicated part for the GOP is how to deal with those party members who refused to endorse Trump. The reasons for many Republicans failing to endorse Trump during his campaign may be down to his racist or offensive rhetoric, but on a more fundamental basis, it is because Trump and the plans he has put forward are not conservative.
GOP members in congress were up in arms when Obama announced his $813 billion stimulus plan back in 2009; while Trump has now said he will spend around $550 billion on infrastructure projects alone, hand in hand with tax reform to lower taxes at nearly every bracket. The problem faced for Republicans in the senate and house is that they support the conservative principle behind Trump’s tax reform but are (or at least claim to be) against this large increase on government spending because it will increase the US national debt to a dangerous $19 billion. So there is going to have to be a level of compromise between Trump and congress if these programs are essential to his plan and unless leadership in both houses simply lets this slide it is unlikely that congress won’t have to wield its power over the purse.
Trump ran on a repeal and replace platform on healthcare, something that many in the party fully supported. However, following his election, Trump plans to keep elements of Obamacare, and whilst logistically responsible (dismantling an infrastructure costing an estimated $353 billion wouldn’t be easy), it is not what most Republicans in congress support. The most ardent critic of Obamacare in the senate, Ted Cruz, has said he plans to rip Obamacare out “branch and root”. The new President will have to try and win some support from Congressional Democrats or fall back on his earlier pledge; the two positions are too irreconcilable to find a middle ground.
Perhaps most worrying for the GOP is the introduction of a new wave of power in the party that Trump has brought from the fringes right to the epicentre: the Alt-Right. The Alt-Right is a collection of people with far-right ideologies and can include nationalists and white supremacists. Since Trump’s nomination, news source Breitbart became the chief alt-right media group. In fact one of the faces of the Alt-right, Milo Yiannopolous, said, “we live in a post-fact era. It’s wonderful”.
Trump has increasingly been giving this group an increased voice, most significantly giving Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon the position of chief strategist in his administration. Bannon have previously called his Breitbart news “a platform for the alt-right”. If the Republicans want to stay a principled, conservative party they are going to have to deal with this outwardly racist, sexist, homophobic, fact denying and conspiracy theory touting group who now have a degree of influence within the White House.
Now that the GOP is so fractious it is going to have to have to rally together and protect the principles of conservatism if it is to have a successful first 2 years and show that it can be more than just an unaccountable opposition party. It has yet to be seen whether they'll be able to form an actual party of government.