Rank-and-file Republicans have signaled their disaffection from their party in spectacular fashion, from the Tea Party to the summer of Trump. The reason of the Republican revolt is not hard to explain: disappointment and frustration.
Donald Trump was propelled into first place among Republicans in July 2015 much more by anger against the party’s existing leadership than by any attraction he exerted on his own. Listen for a minute to conservative radio host Mark Levin on the six-day Trump-Fox feud after the first presidential candidates’ debate:
Senator Mitch McConnell and Representatives John Boehner and Karl Rove and their ilk …. You’re sick of them. You’re sick of them not doing what you elected them to do. You’re sick of them lying to you. You’re sick of them attacking everybody who doesn’t agree with them through their surrogates. You’re sick of how they treat people who dare to challenge them in Republican primaries … You’re tired of so-called conservative commentators on TV and elsewhere who serve as their surrogates ... You don’t feel you have a home and you don’t feel that there’s a party that stands up for you.
Levin expressed with extra vehemence a view that is surprisingly widespread among rank-and-file Republicans.
And it didn’t start in 2015, either. The influential conservative-leaning election analyst Sean Trende observed after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost a primary election in 2014 that:
[A]nalysts need to understand that the Republican base is furious with the Republican establishment, especially over the Bush years. From the point of view of conservatives I’ve spoken with, the early- to mid-2000s look like this: Voters gave Republicans control of Congress and the presidency for the longest stretch since the 1920s.
And what do Republicans have to show for it? Temporary tax cuts, No Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, a new Cabinet department, increased federal spending, TARP, and repeated attempts at immigration reform. Basically, despite a historic opportunity to shrink government, almost everything that the GOP establishment achieved during that time moved the needle leftward on domestic policy.
Whatever happens to the Trump candidacy—almost certainly nothing good—the insurrectionary mood inside the Republican Party will not easily be quieted. More than 40 percent of Republicans want illegal immigrants deported. The party’s best-funded candidates are committed to some kind of pathway to citizenship. More than a fifth of Republicans believe the wealthy wield too much political power.