Today’s big, divisive issues are more common: illegal immigration divides the Party, as do abortion and same-sex marriage. But the biggest issue is an attitudinal one: is the job of the Republicans to stop the Democrats with every tool at their disposal, or to hold hands with Democrats to keep big government running, with the faint hope that at some point, Republicans will take total power and then pare the state around the edges?
That divide isn’t an easy one to bridge. And indeed, like the Whig divide, it’s sectional. Red state Republicans are perfectly happy to watch the federal government struggle through the Founders’ checks and balances; they don’t want a powerful central government. Blue state Republicans think that the struggles of checks and balances create unpredictability and thus financial insecurity, and worry that red state Republican social priorities alienate those who would side with them on cash issues.
The Republican Party will likely come down at some point in the near future. The question is whether we’re already at the breaking point. If Trump wins the nomination, we will be; if the establishment uses any nefarious means to deprive Trump or Ted Cruz of the nomination, we will be; if the establishment gets one of its favorites through a primary process that heavily favors establishment candidates, and that candidate loses to Hillary Clinton, we could be.