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The dome of the U.S. Capitol
The dome of the U.S. Capitolon December 16, 2019 in Washington, D.C.Samuel Corum / Getty Images, file

As 2023 gets underway, the GOP is experiencing ‘a big belly flop’

As 2023 gets underway, Republicans are slipping deeper into disarray, and no one in the GOP appears to have any idea what to do about it.


Politico recently spoke to a House Republican who acknowledged that the party isn’t starting the new year off on the right foot.

The [drama surrounding Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House speaker] is threatening to turn what should be a day of triumph for Republicans into a day of chaos — and they’ll only stomach that for so long. “We’re supposed to be hitting the ground running here, but instead it’s just a big belly flop,” one GOP lawmaker who is supporting McCarthy recently told us.

Consider the scope of the Republican Party’s ongoing disarray:

In the House, Kevin McCarthy is struggling mightily to secure the votes he’ll need to become House speaker due entirely to opposition from his own members. In the meantime, far-right Republicans in the chamber are openly feuding with other far-right Republican colleagues, while other House Republicans are threatening to reject all legislation championed by Senate Republicans who supported the recent omnibus spending package.

“[T]here is no point in pretending we are a united party, and we must prepare for a new political reality,” 31 House Republicans wrote two weeks ago.

In the Senate, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri launched a new broadside against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell late last week, telling a conservative website that the party’s poor showing in the 2022 midterms should be blamed on McConnell and his “terrible” record.

Hawley added, “I’m from the state of Missouri. We’re pretty independent-minded. In my view, we have to do what is right. You have to have the courage of your convictions. So I’m happy to go out there and say, ‘We need a change in direction in the Senate GOP.’ ... We [have] got to do something different.”

A few days earlier, Republican Sens. Ron Johnson and Mike Lee publicly blasted McConnell and the other GOP senators who approved the bipartisan omnibus spending package. “Our party leadership turned on Republican voters, turned on the Republican base, turned on most Republican senators,” the Utahan said during a radio interview. “It has happened before, but this is one too many times. For me, this is the final straw.”

This dovetails, of course, with a new faction within the Senate Republican conference — the so-called “Breakfast Club” — taking shape with the goal of pushing McConnell even further to the right, following their failed post-election bid to take him down.

At Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump has spent quite a bit of time of late condemning McConnell and Elaine Chao, the former president’s own former Transportation secretary, but on New Year’s Day, the Republican rolled out a new intra-party criticism.

Trying to deflect blame for the 2022 midterms, Trump argued yesterday that far-right Republicans “poorly handled” the abortion issue by taking a hard line that “lost large numbers of Voters.” The former president also appeared to take aim at his party’s activist base, adding, “Also, the people that pushed so hard, for decades, against abortion, got their wish from the U.S. Supreme Court, [and] just plain disappeared, not to be seen again.”

And at the RNC, Republican National Committee members are at odds with themselves over the institution’s future, direction, and leadership, and it’s an open question as to whether Ronna McDaniel can win a fourth term after three terms of electoral disappointments.

To reiterate a point from a couple of weeks ago, it’s sensible for the party to tackle its internal differences right now. After electoral setbacks in 2018 and 2020 — the latter of which left the GOP without the White House, Senate, or House — Republicans expected this year to ride a “red wave” into power. Instead, Democrats defied history and had an unexpectedly good year.

Given the circumstances, it stands to reason that Republicans would take the opportunity to pause and consider foundational questions about the party’s direction.

The problem for Republicans — well, one of the party’s problems — is that the GOP is slipping deeper into disarray, and no one in the party appears to have any idea what to do about it.