DANA HOADS, Calif. (AP) — Ronna McDaniel has become the longest-serving leader The Republican National Committee since the Civil War. But now, she must face a modern-day civil war within the Republican Party.
From state capitals to Capitol Hill to the posh Southern California hotels where RNC members gathered this week, frustrated Republicans are divided on how to reverse six years of electoral disappointment. Despite many strong feelings, there is no consensus even among the warring factions about the people, policies or political tactics they should embrace.
On the one hand: A growing number of elected officials are eager to move beyond former President Donald Trump’s divisive politics and personality Although there is no clear choice. On the flip side: The Republican “Make America Great Again” voice, without a cohesive agenda, but quick to attack the status quo on both sides.
“Putting the pieces back together for Ronna McDaniel will be very difficult, if not nearly impossible,” said Caroline Wren, a Republican fundraiser who fought but failed to defeat McDaniel Country. “These people don’t forget.”
Indeed, as RNC members packed their bags from the Waldorf Astoria ballroom on Friday, it was widely believed that McDaniel’s reelection alone would do little to bridge the deep divisions plaguing their party, even as she celebrated an apparently decisive reelection victory .
After privately helping McDaniel campaign, Trump was quick to congratulate her on his social media platforms. But conservative activist Charlie Kirk, a Trump loyalist, likened McDaniel’s successful reelection to the “middle finger” of the Republican base, which is demanding changes in the institutions that lead the party’s political activities.
“The country club won today,” Kirk said from the back of the Waldorf Astoria ballroom as RNC members from around the country voted for another two-year term for McDaniel. “So, grassroots people who can’t afford a steak and are struggling to make ends meet, their rep just told them in a $900-a-night luxury hotel, ‘We hate you.'”
Similar sentiments angered Republicans on Capitol Hill earlier this month, with Kevin McCarthy He had embarrassingly lost days in his bid to become speaker of the House of Representatives before acquiescing to demands from the fringes of the anti-establishment MAGA.
McCarthy, unable to rein in hardline Trump supporters at his conference, now threatens to derail a high-stakes vote on the national debt ceiling, which could send shockwaves through the U.S. economy if not resolved soon. So far, House Republicans have not articulated a set of specific demands.
Some see the GOP’s divisions as a byproduct of the party’s years of embracing Trumpism, a political ideology defined by a relentless focus on a common enemy and a willingness to fight that enemy at all costs.
McDaniel has repeatedly stressed the danger of Republican infighting as he campaigns for an unprecedented fourth term as RNC chairman. On Friday, she called for Republican unity when she cited a Bible verse once used by former President Abraham Lincoln before the Civil War.
“Every kingdom that contradicts itself will go to desolation, and every city or house that contradicts itself will fail,” McDaniel said from a ballroom podium. “Nothing we do is more important than securing a one-term presidency for Joe Biden. But in order to do that, we have to come together.”
It can get worse before it gets better.
The conclusion of the RNC winter meeting marks the unofficial start of the 2024 presidential primary. Trump has launched his candidacy, promising to launch a fierce campaign against any potential Republican rivals.
The Republican National Committee is scheduling the first Republican presidential primary debate, which will likely take place in Milwaukee, the site of the party’s next national convention in late July or early August.
He has been slow on the campaign trail since announcing his 2024 bid in November, but Trump held events this weekend in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Sensing the former president’s political vulnerability, as many as a dozen prominent Republicans are expected to come out against him in the coming months.
Trump has floated the possibility of a third-party bid for the presidency if he fails to secure the Republican Party’s next nomination, which would all but ensure Democrats win the White House again in 2024.
New Hampshire-based RNC member Juliana Bergeron reflected on the state of her party as she prepared to take a red-eye flight home for Trump’s appearance on Saturday. The New Hampshire GOP is grappling with its own bitter leadership feud.
“The party in New Hampshire is divided. The party is divided nationally. I just think there’s a lot of room between the far right and the rest of us,” Bergeron said.
“I think it’s over,” she said when asked about Trump. “I want to see a new generation there.”
And there are some signs that Trump’s MAGA campaign may be ready to move on, too. Some have privately acknowledged that Trump has lost control of his own campaign, which defeated McDaniel despite attempts by the former president and his deputies to help her.
While Trump declined to publicly endorse McDaniel, Wren said that even if he did, it would not change the grassroots demand for new leadership in the Republican Party.
“We’re not just sheep following a single endorsement everywhere,” Wren said. “We wanted to win the election, but we didn’t win the election.”
In fact, Republicans may need a successful national election to unite again. The next national election? November 5, 2024.
“Start working now to bring our party together,” said Reince Priebus, a former Republican National Committee chairman who backed McDaniel’s re-election and Trump’s former chief of staff. “It’s not going to be easy.”