‘Tis a season of disarray for the Republican party going into the New Year. Former President Donald Trump could be indicted for various alleged crimes associated with the January 6th insurrection that the Department of Justice is investigating. The election for the Speaker of the House is still up in the air. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing his usual upstarts from the conservative wing of the Senate, who are against his leadership.
Trump Is Weakened
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Donald Trump was expected to make a spirited opening to his new campaign for the presidency. His first speech was considered a dud by many and some conservatives including members of the right-leaning media and past mega-donors are looking at other candidates to support.
Speaker of the House Is Not Settled
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is worriedly gazing upon a razor-thin majority for the next Congress. His speakership was considered a fait accompli before the 2022 midterm elections but now he has critical opposition to surmount before he receives the gavel and leads the House.
RNC Is Divided
Even Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is facing a revolt among some committee members for the GOP. McDaniel must marshal all her political capital to remain in her position. She currently has 107 votes and needs 168 votes at January’s critical conference meeting to stay in power.
Some GOP Senators Are Rebelling
In the Senate, things have been rocky for the Republicans. Senator Rick Scott from Florida led a failed bid for Minority Leader, which McConnell was able to fend off, but the challenge showed chinks in the leader’s armor.
Lack of a Red Wave Has Emboldened Democrats
The “Red Wave” that was expected to trounce Democrats across the board in the midterms never happened. Republicans barely won the House and lost the Senate. Prognosticators even thought that President Joe Biden would be governing in a weakened state after his party lost big. Now Biden has consolidated his power over the party after a better-than-expected showing.
Are the Republicans Bomb Throwers or Problem Solvers?
Republicans continue to struggle with lagging support from minorities, suburban and single women, and young people. They ran on too many issues, and some considered them extreme as Democrats instead ran on a simple and focused agenda of abortion and saving democracy. While the Republicans could not decide on a winning formula of various accusations that Democrats were responsible for inflation, an economy that may enter into a recession, high gas prices, and an influx of illegal immigration amid a southern border crisis.
Uniting Disparate Coalitions
Republicans thought their base would be fired up about the state of the country and that they would cruise to victory. But the rank and file are not united. Republicans have always been forced to tie together restive factions of their party. There are MAGA Republicans, Never Trumpers, Conservative Christians, Moderates, Reagan Conservatives, and Libertarians. It takes a unique environment and able politicians to wrangle all these factions to unite in support for policies and candidates. Some presidents such as Reagan and George W. Bush were able to unite the party and win. Others such as John McCain and Mitt Romney failed to inspire the base and hold together the factions. They lost.
Ukraine Shows Divisions at Home
Look at the support for the war in Ukraine. MAGA Republicans and Libertarians are suspicious of sending a “blank check” of arms and money to Kyiv, while those Republicans who remember Reagan and George HW Bush’s win in the Cold War are more supportive of aid to Ukraine that reduces the power of Russia.
Old Versus Young
The GOP is also divided on a generational basis. Will they choose an older, battle-worn, and legally embattled Trump for President or throw support behind a younger new face? How will they attack Biden? There are plenty of weaknesses to wage war on the president such as age and mental acuity. Or do they focus on inflation and the economy plus the border or foreign policy?
Democrats Have Seized on GOP Troubles
The Democrats must be giddy going into the New Year. They did well in the midterms. Biden’s approval numbers are creeping up. They are starting to develop a bench of younger politicians to claim the mantle of leadership. They can always point to the MAGA wing of the Republican party as being too extreme and that the Right breeds conspiracy theories of election denial and QAnon.
Where Is the Trust?
Republicans have work to do to gain America’s trust. Are they going to use their House majority to help solve the country’s problems? Or are they planning to obstruct and investigate the Democrats in divisive hearings on Capitol Hill that focus on the past instead of the future? Then there is the next election in 2024 with no one else in the field besides Trump, a candidate who exemplifies the party’s past. The Republicans will likely enter circular firing squad mode where they attack their own and do not support a policy agenda that the country can rally around. Therefore, it will be a chaotic 2023 for the GOP.
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Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.