Can the Republican Party survive Trump?

“There is a faction that would actually rather burn down the entire Republican Party in hopes they can rebuild it in their image,” Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican admaker, told me. For his outspoken antagonism to Trump, including an op-ed calling Trump voters “Hillary’s new best friends,” Wilson has received a deluge of bile from Trump’s army of Internet trolls; his family has been threatened and his clients have been harassed. He worries that the party is on the brink of falling apart. “There’s got to be either a reconciliation or a division,” he said. “There’s still a greater fraction of people who are limited-government conservatives than people motivated by the personality cult of Donald Trump.”

The Trump drama, Wilson and others note, comes at a time when the probable Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, is struggling with image problems, a protracted scandal, and her own party’s divisions—but the focus on Trump has prevented Republicans from capitalizing on Clinton’s troubles. “He’s framing up a scenario where the election in the fall doesn’t become a referendum on the tenure of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but on the Republican positions advanced by Donald Trump—which are not particularly Republican, and not particularly conservative,” Wilson said…

The Beltway freakout that Trump has inspired proves his ability to shake up the system, Stone added. “I think what they’re really upset about is that if he got elected they’d be out of a job, since they’re in the lobbying revolving door,” said Stone, himself a former lobbyist. “They can’t buy him; they can’t influence him in the traditional Washington ways. He’ll be a truly independent president, and I don’t think that’s something the Republican establishment wants.”