One of the many things that has been exposed by the Trump campaign is that America does not have a two-party political system. It has a 1.3 party system. A good example of this is how Paul Ryan probably had one of his cronies leak that lewd tape to embarrass the party nominee. Whether or not he orchestrated it is immaterial, as he clearly had foreknowledge and was prepared to pile on as soon as it was released. In fact, it looked like he was coordinating a revolt against the nominee until it became clear it was going to backfire.
This is not the normal functioning of a political party. Hillary Clinton could be caught on video, strangling a baby, and the party would rally to her side. The media would celebrate baby strangling for a week. Just look at how hard they tried to hide her severe health problems from the public. That’s how political parties are supposed to work. The role of the party is to advance all of its candidates, even the ones they don’t like all that much. John McCain is an obnoxious nutjob, but the party fully supported his candidacy.
The truth is that about a third of elected Republicans would prefer to be Democrats. Within living memory, guys like Paul Ryan would have been moderate Democrats or possibly liberal Republicans. The distance between Clinton and Ryan on the main issues of the day is tiny. Ryan and most of the party leadership are post-national globalists, just like the Democrats. Ryan would prefer to be a bit more tightfisted on some spending items than Clinton, but he has made it known, time and again, that he will not fight over these things
There is another third or more of the party that is not interested in rocking the boat. They just like the good life and generally think the status quo is pretty good, at least for them. In another age, many would have been seat warmers in the Democrat Party, but time and circumstance put them in the GOP. A guy like John Boehner, for example, would have been in the Democrat party in the 1970’s. He’s the sort of guy union boys would like as he is unpretentious and likes talking about bread and butter issues more than philosophy.
That leaves a small fraction of the party’s elected officials in Washington that are dedicated to opposing the dominant orthodoxy and its political party. The result is a guy like Jeff Sessions getting grief from his own party, because he is standing by the party’s nominee. The weirdness of this goes unnoticed in official Washington as the majority of the Imperial Capital thinks guys like Sessions are a nuisance. There are just 40 members of the House that can be described as traditional American conservatives. That’s 16% of the caucus.
Now, Gallup has been polling on ideological self-identification for a long time. The portion of the country that self-identifies as liberal is around 20% and the portion that identifies as conservative sticks around 40%. The rest are low-tax liberals and conservatives that live in liberal states. In all probability, this group of “moderates” breaks 2-to-1 to traditional American conservatism. At least, if they are given the choice between a Reagan and an Obama, for example, they would break toward Reagan.
The math suggests that about half the country has no party representing their interests. At best they have a third of one party, which happens to be controlled by the other party. The other 5/6ths of the political class speaks loudly and aggressively for the 20% of the public that identifies as liberal. As guys like Paul Ryan have made clear, they have zero interest in listening to the pleas of their conservative members. The House leadership has made it clear that the troublesome right wingers are to remain quiet and out of the way or else.
It’s why a rather poor politician like Trump has rocketed to the brink of winning the presidency. For the first time in decades, one party has put up someone that talks about issues important to the bulk of the the country in a way that is familiar to close to half, maybe more than half, of the voters. It’s also why Trump finds himself running against the leadership of his own party, the so-called conservative media and the full army of the Progressive establishment. Trump is essentially running as an independent.
Popular government cannot work when it is not popular. By that I mean the public must think their interests are being represented in the halls of power. Otherwise, it is just another form of despotism in the eyes of that portion of the public that feels excluded. What’s happening now may be a modern American version of the Conflict of the Orders. An unrepresented portion of the public is demanding to be represented and using the tools at its disposal to force reform on the established order.
Perhaps this election is a modern American version of the Day of the Tiles. Instead of throwing roof tiles at the agents of the state, the people are using the blunt weapon that is Donald Trump. In isolation it will just feel like a wacky event that means nothing, but in the fullness of time it will be viewed as a pivotal event. It’s hard to know, but what is known is that this system has lost its legitimacy because a swelling portion of the public is no longer represented by either party. That cannot last and it will not last.