The Washington Monthly Newsletter: February 8, 2024

The Republican Party is more divided than the Democratic Party

CNN anchor Erin Burnett, opening her 7 p.m. Eastern time show last night, casually used the phrase “Republicans in disarray.”

What was particularly surprising to me was that her tone was not one of surprise. There was no “can-you-believe-it’s-not-the-Democrats-in-disarray?!” subtext.

I did a quick Google check and noticed “Republicans in disarray” has been used in the media more frequently as of late, such as when Kevin McCarthy was struggling to win the Speaker’s gavel in January 2023, and when he lost it in October 2023.

And now we’re seeing the phrase used as the party turns on itself over the now-filibustered bipartisan border security bill, the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and aid to Israel and Ukraine.

I have more to say about the GOP’s worsening divisions, but first, here’s the latest from the Washington Monthly:

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As I wrote today, we’re seeing so much Republican division because Donald Trump injected so many impurities into the conservative bloodstream. No longer is the GOP unified over international hawkishness or domestic economic libertarianism.

What Trump and his Republicans are unified over is fear of immigrants. But since fixing the broken immigration system would dissipate such fears, and remove their remaining unifying principle, they have no incentive to do anything about immigration.

Immigration causes divisions in the Democratic Party as well, between those who see the need to restrict the unprecedented flow of migrants so municipalities do not run out of shelter space, and those who believe such concerns are secondary to the need to help those seeking asylum.

But we didn’t see the same degree of division on the Senate floor.

Only five members of the Democratic caucus broke ranks on the failed cloture vote to consider the border-Ukraine-Israel-Taiwan aid package (not counting Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who voted “Nay” for procedural reasons.)

Granted, only four Republicans voted for cloture, but we know that’s because several others who previously indicated support for the bill, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, caved under pressure from Trump.

Today we see more GOP division, as 17 Republican senators joined nearly all Democrats to advance a foreign aid bill with the border provisions removed.

Thirty-one Republicans attempted to filibuster, an indicator of the uphill battle ahead, as Senate Republicans plan a push for controversial amendments and House Speaker Mike Johnson remains noncommittal on helping Ukraine.

We’re also seeing more GOP division, relative to the Democrats, at the ballot box.

Trump, while on a glide path to the nomination, only got 51 percent support in the Iowa caucuses, and 54 percent in the New Hampshire primary. Biden got 65 percent in New Hampshire as a write-in candidate, 96 percent in South Carolina and 89 percent in Nevada (where “none of these candidates” was an option).

Whether the relative unity of the two parties has bearing on the general election outcome is an unknown.

But heading into the general election phase of the campaign, Democratic voters and office holders appear far more accepting of the compromises made by their standard bearer than Republican voters and office holders are of the resistance to compromise demanded by their standard bearer.

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Best,

Bill

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