As of late, the interwebs and popular media have been awash with talk of the civil war within the Republican party. Evidence offered: the early machinations of the invisible primary, particularly those I discussed earlier in the Iowa Senate race. Silly as this is, along comes this gem, that takes the chatter to a new level of absurdity - the actual extinction of the Republican party. We've seen talk like this before in the punditry, most recently the declarations of a Democratic realignment shortly after the 2008 election. Pundits, it would seem, are a brilliant lot. They've foretold at least ten of last zero Republican party collapses. Quite frankly, one doesn't need a PhD in political science to see this as the rubbish it is.
The key from my perspective is that both political parties are doing well institutionally. While their successes in past several election cycles have certainly had ebbs and flows, there is deep consensus amongst academics that parties are on as solid of institutional ground as they've had in decades. Granted, the Republicans are doing some soul searching after the 2012 election, as losing parties are wont to do, but they are far from down and out. Despite the discord, they remain strong in critical regards.
First, the simple fact that the GOP kept control the House of Representatives should should have dispelled this fatuous speculation. While it is patent that underlying demography (namely dense settlement patterns of Democrats) and the fact we use single member districts, currently gives Republicans a bit of a structural advantage (see Oppenheimer and Abramowitz's separate works on this), gerrymandering was not responsible for them keeping their majority in 2012. Simply put, Republicans remain electorally viable across the country despite their troubles at the top of the ticket. Unless the fundamentals take an unexpected turn, they're in sound position to build on that majority and to come within striking distance of taking the Senate in 2014. Moreover, Republicans continue to maintain a high degree of ideological cohesion, both within Congress and the electorate. Though I will post more on this in coming weeks, the ideological space that we see these conflicts occurring in is rather small. Given those slight differences, reaching an accord between the competing camps should prove to be easier than the pundits would have you believe.
Which brings us back to the invisible primary. Be it for presidential or congressional candidates, there's no rule that says the invisible primary must be a civil conversation at all times. You'd expect some heated discussion given the stakes and circumstances. But to claim that this is a sign of inherent weakness or a harbinger of party collapse is ludicrous. If anything, it's a sign that the party is alive, well, and engaged in a serious conversation about its future.