Who is weaker: the Democratic or Republican Party?
As of right now, there is no Republican Party without Donald Trump. This is odd, considering he never held public office before deciding to run for President, and also because Trump has never shied away from donating to both Republican and Democratic politicians. But Republican voters showed their support for him, by giving him 45% of total votes cast during the 2016 Republican primaries. The GOP leadership could do nothing but watch as the character of their cherished institution was ripped away from them.
Even second-placed Ted Cruz, with 25% of the total Republican votes cast, was an establishment outsider. He had gained notoriety after becoming a central figure in the 2013 government shutdown, and had been a darling of the rebellious Tea Party faction of the GOP ever since. Nonetheless, the Party unified enough around Trump to help him win the general election. Without him on the ticket, it is unlikely that the GOP would have got as many votes in the House and Senate elections, considering they shared the ballot with Trump. So I’ll say it again — there is no GOP without Trump.
For the Democrats, it is a slightly different story. Their main source of unity seems to come from opposition to Trump. There is no Democratic Party without Trump, either. In the 2016 Democratic primaries, establishment favorite Hillary Clinton managed to snag a plurality of the total votes cast: over 55% of Democratic voters chose her. But second-placed Bernie Sanders, a formerly-Independent Senator, managed to get over 43% of the votes. No one else in the race got more than 1%. The Democratic Party establishment, though not as unpopular as the one that used to rule the GOP, showed serious signs of strain during the last election cycle.
What has still gone largely unaddressed is the fact that the DNC colluded to help Hillary Clinton win the nomination against Bernie (if the emails stolen from the DNC and supplied by WikiLeaks are to be believed). The irony shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Democrats accused Russia of trying to rig the general election by releasing their emails through WikiLeaks, that showed the DNC was trying to rig the primaries. Many Bernie voters still feel the nomination was stolen from them, and that their candidate would have ultimately beat Trump in the general election.
So long as Republican voters like Trump more than Democrats, then the GOP is unified. So long as Democratic voters hate Trump more than the devil himself, their party is unified. Should Trump’s popularity slip or grow considerably, it could have dire implications for both parties. Their problems (being profoundly disconnected from their voter bases) were never really confronted in the aftermath of the election. Nonetheless, they both have Trump to thank for holding them together.
Whether the appeal of populism begins to subside or not, both the Republican and Democratic Parties are weaker than many of their supporters care to admit. Millions of voters, simply by choosing outside candidates, proved to the establishment wings of the parties that they did not trust them. Without Trump, Republican voters do not have faith in the party, while Democratic voters would lose a common enemy they share with their own establishment. Trump is the glue that holds both parties together, as scary as that sounds.