The Republican Party stands on the edge of a precipice, a Grand Old Party unsure of its identity and its future.
The immediate instigator of the party’s crisis is Donald Trump, whose strong performance on Super Tuesday sets him on a firm path toward the Republican presidential nomination. Hillary Clinton’s equally strong performance on the Democratic side all but locks in her own nomination.
But while Mrs. Clinton’s victories on Tuesday mean that the Democratic establishment is likely to get its choice of nominee, for Republican leaders, the Trump juggernaut effectively represents a hostile takeover of their party. And it's voters – many of them longtime Republicans, others new to politics – who are spurring the change, as they hear Mr. Trump’s message and jump aboard.
“The modern GOP is literally changing before our eyes, whether or not we choose to see it,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.
The party’s conservative message on social issues, particularly its hostility to same-sex marriage, is falling out of favor, he notes. Views on health care are all over the map. And neoconservative foreign policy – the idea of the US as the world’s “policeman” – faces growing public resistance.
“Trump knows this and is leveraging it to his advantage,” Mr. O’Connell says.