The Republican Party is a failed state and Donald Trump is its warlord

People who call themselves leaders of the Republican Party—politicians, donors, strategists, elders—are panicking over an impending disaster. Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz are about to roll through the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, crushing the “establishment” Republican presidential candidates. Trump and Cruz are also running first and second, respectively, in South Carolina. They even lead in Florida, the home state of Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush. It’s hard to see where Trump or Cruz could be stopped—and how either of them, if nominated, would win a general election.

The party’s putative leaders, desperate for a third option, are begging the establishment candidates—Rubio, Bush, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio—to consolidate their support or at least to stop attacking one another. Many Republican insiders, resigned to a Trump or Cruz nomination, are blaming anyone but themselves: mainstream candidates who failed to connect with voters, super PACs that didn’t take Trump seriously, donors who wouldn’t pony up to stop him.

The disaster, the blame game, and the establishment’s surprise at what’s happening are related. Since President Obama’s election, the GOP has abandoned its role as a national governing party. It has seized Congress not by pursuing an alternative agenda but by campaigning and staging votes against anything Obama says or does. The party’s so-called leaders have become followers, chasing the pet issues of right-wing radio audiences. Now the mob to whom these elders have surrendered—angry white voters who are determined to “take back their country” from immigrants and liberals—is ready to install its own presidential nominee. The Trump-Cruz takeover is the culmination of the Grand Old Party’s moral collapse.