The president and the GOP have always had a strained relationship, but 2020 is fast approaching.
United States President Donald Trump has, through his authority as commander in chief, demanded the withdrawal of American forces from Syrian territory, which means abandoning our Kurdish allies in the area — a categorically bad decision. The U.S. has had its fingers in Northern Syria for a long time, and to abandon a consistent group of allies there is a smack in the face to the sacrifices made by American and Kurdish soldiers. The decision is completely, irreparably awful — so awful, in fact, that it has fractured the Republican Party’s unity between the executive and legislative branches. This split could indicate a major break in the stability of the Republican Party, which, considering the 2020 election cycle has already begun, might spell a fortuitous future for his opponents.
Now, let’s take a step into my time machine and go back to the year I believe the world ended and this wack timeline was put into place: 2016.
Some of you cringed hard, but looking at the history between Trump and the GOP illustrates how bad a position the party is in. If you remember, multiple important GOP figures did not want Trump to win the nomination, but a grassroots movement among the party-base sealed his victory. Even with the overwhelming majority Trump had among the party’s members, Republican leaders were hesitant to award him the nomination.
The GOP did not want Trump to win. He was seen as too volatile, engaging with too many fringe, unsavory groups with sometimes vile ideologies. That behaviour isolated the Republican party even further from the Democratic party, and Trump sitting in office for 4 years was a potentially cataclysmic event, but party loyalty temporarily won out, and the GOP closed ranks, secretly hoping that he would lose.
Then he won.
He somehow won. On the surface, it looked like a Republican Party Christmas miracle. With this victory, they would have control over both houses of Congress and the Executive Branch, allowing them to pass whatever they wanted … in the ideal situation. But Trump did not want to soften his views, remaining dedicated to his inflammatory rhetoric, which spelled doom to the next 4 years of politics.
With this context, it is easier to see how fundamentally unstable the Republican Party was prior to any major scandal emerging, which primes the detonator on the inevitable GOP implosion when the right trigger event comes up. An event that is somehow illogical and disrespectful to the party’s base patriotic ideals, like, perhaps, hanging allies out to dry in hostile territory. With Trump’s decision, the GOP has found itself between a rock and a hard place. Do they stick with president and party, attempting to defend an indefensible position? Or do they split with the president, showing their internal disunity to the American public? It’s a hard line to straddle in the political sphere, but while previous situations have sometimes allowed a glimpse into this internal chaos, it was never to this degree.
When your Senate Majority Leader thinks you have made a poor decision, and is outspoken about it, you know you messed up. With Mitch McConnell, that majority leader, flagrantly defying the position stated by his party head, the GOP is forced to choose between inevitably dying on Trump’s hill or jumping off his wagon. It seems to be an easy decision. Abandoning trustworthy allies makes no logical sense, and because of that, Trump has provided an opportunity for the GOP and the Democratic Party to agree. When Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, and Mitch McConnell agree on something, you should see if hell’s frozen over, but they have both aggressively pushed back on the president’s views, implying that some unknown deal must exist between him and the Assad regime.
Perhaps this is the final tiny bit of patience the Republican leadership has for Trump fizzling out. How does one defend abandoning allies that have fought alongside American troops in foreign land, during a conflict that we were responsible for? Is this the moment where the GOP embraces the fault that splits their party off from bipartisan action? It would make sense, cast away the extreme views held by the far right, let go of Trump, and rebuild the Republican party as a more moderate group. It’s rather unfortunate, and a bit depressing, that the greatest moment of political unity in the past 15 years comes from a president deciding to consign a minority group to brutal deaths at the hands of a dictatorial regime.