US Election 2016: After Donald Trump, what's next for the Republican Party?

Donald Trump may become the next President of the United States.

And then again, he may not.

Regardless, the fact is that the Republican Party will not be the same again. At least for a while.

This is by no means the first time the GOP has been divided; one only needs to look back to 2008 to see how Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin split the party. As AP points out, "Palin was an awkward fit as No 2 on the ticket, but she built an enthusiastic following with conservatives. She blended more neatly into the tea party movement that blossomed during the first years of Obama's presidency." That tea party movement has seemingly fizzled out, moving out of the limelight to be replaced by the virulent alt-right movement: A disparate American movement that is accused of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny, according to the BBC.

File image of Donald Trump. Getty Images

File image of Donald Trump. Getty Images

And by gravitating towards the alt-right, Trump has largely alienated several senior Republicans, including Ted Cruz and John McCain. That is when he wasn't taking to Twitter to alienate them.

And when he wasn't naming and shaming them individually, he was branding them as a 'disloyal' group:

It's worth noting at this point that the impact of Palin on the GOP pales in comparison to that of Trump, who has not only split its membership, but also impacted its ideology.

Let's look at two scenarios to understand this notion.

Scenario One: Trump wins the election

In this scenario, Republicans will be faced with the difficult choice of whether or not to stand by their new commander-in-chief — a man who hit at the heart of American democracy by claiming that the election is 'rigged'. The Centre-Right identity of the party is likely to shift further right with Trump as president. Those who reject the new identity will likely be lost in the mix or be forced to jump ship. A Republican civil war appears to be on the cards.

According to NBC:

"Politicians in Trump’s Republican Party would showcase their opposition to illegal immigration on economic, cultural and security grounds while casting suspicion upon Muslims at home and abroad. Most claims of racial inequality would be brushed aside as divisive... A new “America First” foreign policy would push back against free trade agreements, military alliances and the US-led international institutions that enforce these arrangements. The party would table old arguments over shrinking government and reforming entitlements, urging robust government intervention instead to help workers left behind by economic changes."

It's hard to imagine very many Republicans taking too kindly to the party going down that path.

File image of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Reuters

File image of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Reuters

Scenario Two: Trump loses the election

While Trump will likely return to life as a businessman and leave politics behind, the Republican Party will be forced to contend with its new supporter base. Preparation for the 2020 presidential election will begin almost immediately. The GOP will attempt to reject all of Trump's ideas like that infamous wall and insist that 'voters don’t support trade restrictions, mass deportations, a Muslim ban or preserving entitlements'. There will be proactive efforts to win over the Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans and women who have been alienated by Trump's rhetoric in the buildup to Election Day.

All of this could see the ideology of the party move further towards the Centre. However, party members will have to strike a tricky balance between the sort of Republican voters Trump attracted and those the GOP will attempt to win over.

All in all, it's a strange time for the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

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Updated Date: Nov 08, 2016 12:22 PM

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