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The Influence of the Republican Party Is the Story of the Century

Donald J Trump (Credits: Reuters)

For the past seventy years, the Republican Party has seriously influenced American political life. This influence has been revealed through three pivotal developments: the rise of the personal presidency, a conservative insurgency within the party, and the eventual capitulation of the GOP establishment to Donald Trump’s brand of politics.

My latest book, “Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism,” explores these phenomena, drawing from the historical context that began during the Roosevelt-Truman era, which saw the GOP lose five consecutive presidential races—a record of defeat unparalleled in modern political history.

Thomas E. Dewey, a Republican contender during those years, observed that such prolonged exclusion from power fundamentally changes a political party.

Donald Trump (Credits:

The GOP’s return to presidential success with Dwight D. Eisenhower marked a remarkable shift. Eisenhower sidestepped traditional party mechanisms by forming “Citizens for Eisenhower,” a group that drew support from beyond conventional Republican circles, including independents and Democrats.

Reagan’s Presidency Solidified Conservative Fiscal and Social Policies

This move set a precedent for future presidents who distanced themselves from their parties to cultivate a personal following, a practice that defines modern presidential politics.

This era also saw the burgeoning of a conservative movement, beginning with Senator Robert A. Taft’s challenge against Eisenhower in 1952. Despite his deep roots in the party, Taft’s loss and Eisenhower’s subsequent moderate policies provoked conservative ire, laying the groundwork for the candidacies of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

Following his dramatic rise post-1964, Reagan’s presidency entrenched conservative fiscal and social policies as dominant forces in American politics. Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency represented a radical shift in the GOP’s trajectory.

His America First doctrine and disdain for traditional Republican values, like free trade and global diplomatic leadership, have reshaped the party’s identity. Under Trump, the Republican Party has undergone what can be described as a hostile takeover, eschewing long-held conservative principles in favor of Trump’s populist agenda.

Former President Donald Trump (Credits: The Hill)

As we approach another election, the consequences of Trump’s influence are profound. The refusal of Trump and his followers to accept the results of the 2020 election underscores a dangerous departure from democratic norms.

The future of the GOP is uncertain: A Trump win in 2024 could solidify his grip on the party, while a loss would not necessarily eliminate the political polarization he has stoked.

“Grand Old Unraveling” is not just a chronicle of the Republican Party’s past but a warning about its possible futures. As we stand at this crossroads, the direction chosen by the GOP will not only redefine the party but also have lasting impacts on the American political landscape.

Whether the party can return to its conservative roots or continue down a path led by Trump’s transformative and tumultuous leadership remains one of the most pressing questions facing our nation.

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