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Civil War In Republican Party

May 8, 2016

Top of the fold in today’s New York Times.

But for leading Republicans, the dismay is deeper and darker. They fear their party is on the cusp of an epochal split — a historic cleaving between the familiar form of conservatism forged in the 1960s and popularized in the 1980s and a rekindled, atavistic nationalism, with roots as old as the republic, that has not flared up so intensely since the original America First movement before Pearl Harbor.  

Some even point to France and other European countries, where far-right parties like the National Front have gained power because of the sort of resentments that are frequently given voice at rallies for Mr. Trump.

Yet if keeping the peace means embracing Mr. Trump and his most divisive ideas and utterances, a growing number are loath to do it.

The ties between Republican elites — elected officials, donors and Washington insiders — and voters have actually been fraying for years. Traditional power brokers long preached limited-government conservatism and wanted to pursue an immigration overhaul, entitlement cuts, free trade and a hawkish foreign policy, and nominees like John McCain and Mitt Romney largely embraced that agenda. Republican leaders also vilified President Obama and Democrats, stoking anger with rank-and-file conservatives.

Many Republican voters trudged along with those earlier nominees, but never became truly animated until Mr. Trump offered them his brand of angry populism: a blend of protectionism at home and a smaller American footprint abroad. And he was able to exploit their resentments and frustrations because those same Republican leaders had been nurturing those feelings for years with attacks on Mr. Obama, Democrats, illegal immigrants and others.

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