In the wake of the constant war to find a new Speaker of the House, one thing has been made clear: the Republican Party is in trouble.
Once lauded as the Party that always got its voting members in Congress to “fall in line,” the Republican Party appears in disarray and without a tangible way to recover that once prolific image they held tightly onto. Now, with the country in complete chaos, it begs the question: what happened to the House Republican Party?
To start, it is crucial to understand the history of how the Republican Party used to shore up support from its voting members and its history of fighting legislative battles cohesively. For example, when attempting to pass legislation in 2005 over Medicaid/Medicare issues, the House voted 250-151, a party-line vote with almost all Republicans supporting the measure.
While this is one small example of a trend where Republicans voted cohesively, the tradition of fierce loyalty to the Party has vanished.
The absence of this previously significant value can be attributed to one person who characterizes the Republican Party today, Donald J. Trump.
There is one thing that anyone moderately familiar with American politics can tell you today: Trump is the Republican Party.
So how did this happen? At what point did one person take over the culture of an entire political party?
At the beginning of his campaign, Trump burst onto the national stage and planted himself into a hotly contested 2016 presidential race by promising unconventional change. But what is an unconventional change? Politicians promise to change the status quo in every election; what was different about Trump’s promise?
For starters, Trump represented a new idea of what the U.S. government could be. He promised on the campaign trail to get rid of the corruption that had plagued D.C. and to “drain the swamp.” Trump was here to change American politics as we know it.
Additionally, Trump is known for stirring up controversy and imposing a certain level of confidence and self-assurance that excites a new grouping of voters. When he said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose voters,” he made it extremely clear that he was a different kind of politician.
In short, Trump has an M.O. of calling for radical change and using divisive and often outlandish rhetoric to appeal to a particular group of voters. Consequently, this theme has carried over to new members of Congress and some members of the House Republican Party who were taking notes on Trump’s peculiar approach to politics.
Trump transformed the Republican Party and established an attitude of behaving outspokenly and destroying a tradition of compromise within the Party. With this new breed of politicians taking the stage in the House, many chose to emulate these ideas.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is one of the newer congresswomen who have taken after Donald Trump and shaped her ideals around his tactics. Greene has positioned herself as New York Times politics reporter Robert Draper says, “(a) Trump mini-me.”
Making outlandish claims, regardless of their effect on the Party’s image and overall decorum, comes straight out of Trump’s political handbook because usually it provides monetary benefits. Congresswoman Greene has repeatedly used this tactic and is known for making preposterous insinuations that damage the Party. For example, the Georgia Congresswoman said that a series of wildfires in California in 2018 were due to Jewish “space lasers”; this was later proven false and had to be walked back with an apology. After making remarks similar in vitriol and hatred and being stripped of committee assignments, Greene raised $160,000 in one day in February 2021. Identical to how after an impeachment inquiry into Trump began in 2019, Brad Parscale tweeted that Trump gained 50,000 new donors in two days.
While Rep. Greene is just one example of how extreme politicians can mimic Trump’s image to become successful within the Party, it also affects the House significantly.
The prominent role in which we see the effects of Trump-inspired Congressmen is in the Office of the Speaker of the House.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a member of the House for over fifteen years who had served in multiple leadership roles within the Party, had finally ridden the bench long enough to be elevated to the Office of the Speaker of the House. It was seemingly tradition that he should rise to this role—consistent with every other Speaker’s ascension in recent history.
However, there is one main caveat that McCarthy had to consider: a new type of Republican Party. This became apparent when a select minority of nineteen Republicans voted against the most popular Republican candidate for the Speaker position after winning the House majority in 2022.
So, why did these Republicans feel they could challenge Kevin McCarthy for fifteen rounds of voting?
Because in the era of Trumpian politics, a sector of the Republican Party believes there is no need for compromise or concern for the betterment of the conference.
To summarize all these points, the House of Representatives is in shambles, and the Republican Party has evolved into the Party of Donald Trump, meaning that members of the GOP are not bound to the same commitments to loyalty and the desire for a functioning democracy that party members have had to abide by in the past.
In a country where a cohort of diverse people was meant to be represented in government, only a tiny faction’s ideas and goals are gaining traction in this new age of politics. Or better put, only one man’s influence controls the ideas and goals that are gaining traction.