IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

As Election Day looms, Republican Party faces crisis conditions

The question is not whether the Republican Party is facing crisis conditions; it's how severe and consequential this crisis will be.
Ripped Donald Trump signs lay on the floor at a rally in Radford, Va., Feb. 29, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
Ripped Donald Trump signs lay on the floor at a rally in Radford, Va., Feb. 29, 2016.

In another battle in the Republican Party's civil war, the Republican National Committee sought to downplay any split among the party over its presidential nominee, holding an emergency conference call with its party members to tell them that the party stands with Donald Trump.RNC Chairman Reince Priebus assured the party's 168 members that "nothing has changed" in their support of Trump. He said that the RNC and the Trump campaign are working well together and are completely coordinated, adding that Trump top officials had volunteered to also join the call in a show of unity.

"So everything is on course, and I want you to understand that," Priebus assured RNC members.The party chairman's pep talk may have helped some Republican officials feel a little better, but the fact remains that "everything" is clearly not on course.Priebus' call came on the heels of House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) latest efforts to distance himself from his party's controversial presidential nominee, which came on the heels of a weekend in which dozens of Republican officials, including several sitting senators and governors, withdrew their support for Trump, called for his removal from the ticket, or both.By midday yesterday, Trump had turned to Twitter to take a shot at Ryan, while Fox's Sean Hannity, one of Trump's closest allies, was telling his audience that the House Speaker and his allies are "done" -- though "they don't know it yet."It was around this time that Trump's Republican backers protested outside RNC headquarters -- one carried a sign that read, "Better to grab a p***y than to be one" -- at a gathering that was reportedly organized by Trump's state director in Virginia, who was later removed from his post.At Trump campaign headquarters, meanwhile, the candidate's chief spokesperson is threatening the party with an alarming warning: Trump voters will reject down-ballot Republicans. That followed the presidential hopeful's campaign manager defending Trump's 2005 remarks on sexual assault by arguing that members of Congress are themselves guilty of sexual assault.CNN's Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, has decided to lash out at Priebus, calling him a "weak" and "failed" party leader.Away from Washington, Rep. Joe Heck (R), the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in a very competitive Nevada race, has pulled his support for Trump, which late yesterday prompted Nevada's RNC committeewoman to renounce Heck's candidacy.There's no great mystery here: If Republican officials stick with Trump, they risk being dragged down with him. If they run the other way, the rabid Republican base will turn on them. The result is strife and chaos in a party lacking any semblance of leadership.The Washington Post reported that Republican politics "tumbled toward anarchy" yesterday, and quoted a former GOP senator saying, "It's every person for himself or herself right now."Two years ago, Republicans took control of Congress, a majority of state legislatures, and a majority of governors' offices. Party leaders believed, by the fall of 2016, they'd be poised for complete national dominance.Instead, a GOP civil war is slowly unfolding, instigated in part by a ridiculous presidential nominee with no loyalty to his party, putting Republicans' gains at risk up and down the ballot.When Trump secured the party's nomination several months ago, many Republicans assumed the worst that could happen would be his defeat. They badly underestimated the scope of the damage his candidacy could do.