The Republicans came out of 2016 having won the White House and both congressional houses. The party controlled 33 governorships and 32 state legislatures.
But tensions are visible on the political right despite its empowerment. Some is ideological, some personal, some institutional, some regional. A rift widened last week between President Donald Trump on one side and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the other.
The president on Thursday tweeted his distress that the legislative leaders declined to follow his advice on how to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
The clashes go deeper than legislative strategy. They extend to the Russia investigations, the health care system, and for some, the president’s conduct and viability as a leader.
Before Steve Bannon departed as a White House chief strategist, he supplied much of the supposedly antiglobalist ideology behind Trump’s “America First” message.
But the president’s announcement that he’d extend the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan jarred noninterventionists. Bannon’s Breitbart News was critical.
The GOP has both globalist and isolationist roots. Tea Party activists and neoconservatives are at odds. Party players have sharp divides over China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Elected Republicans differ over how the government should approach health insurance. This is one reason Obamacare has yet to be replaced as the party demanded before. Some GOP governors speak out against slicing certain Medicaid funds that are key to their state budgets.
Populism, nationalism and fiscal conservatism have yet to be defined in the Trump presidency. Expect infighting over any eventual plan for big infrastructure spending.
Immigration and trade are flash points — even among big donors. On both, the Mercer family from Long Island and the Koch brothers based in the Midwest have taken different postures on how hard a line to take.
Even the dispute involving Confederate statues has its shadings. Vice President Mike Pence this week struck a chord different from Trump’s scoffing against their removal.
“Rather than tearing down monuments that have graced our cities all across this country for years, we ought to be building more monuments,” Pence said. “We ought to be celebrating the men and women who have helped our nation move toward a more perfect union and tell the whole story of America.”