There is a simple reason why Donald Trump will not; and cannot, destroy the Republican Party. There is no such ideology as Republicanism; or for that matter Democratism, instead the two major American political parties are administrative mechanisms designed to facilitate cooperation and electoral victory.
Throughout their history the beliefs and ideologies of the two parties have varied widely. The Democratic Party; which started out as the party of slavery and white supremacy, are now the party of racial equality. The Republicans; which started out as an alliance of everybody who hated slavery; are now the party of nationalism, libertarianism, business and to a lesser extent white nationalism.
Since the Republican Party is not an ideological organization; like some European political parties, Trump cannot destroy it. Trump is obviously no conservative, but the Republicans are not a conservative political party. Instead the GOP is an organization with a lot of conservative members.
How Trump will strengthen the Party System
The Republican Party will survive Trump because it is simply too useful an organization. It has a national brand; and more importantly provides access to state and national elections. Simply being its standard bearer; or doing well in the primaries, gives a candidate national stature and publicity.
Strangely enough, Trump is strengthening the Republican brand by raising its stature. By becoming a powerful national political force through winning a primary, Trump has demonstrated how potent the party system is. Others are likely to follow his example in both parties, but particularly in the GOP where there are no super delegates to block insurgent candidates.
What Trump is doing is trying to shift the GOP’s ideological focus from cultural conservatism and libertarianism to white and economic nationalism. Such paradigm shifts have been attempted before; back in 1912 Teddy Roosevelt tried to shift the GOP’s economic beliefs from laisse faire to paternalistic progressivism. More recently conservatives succeeded in taking over the Republicans in 1964, and forcing out the moderates.
Such efforts are not always successful Roosevelt certainly failed in 1912, causing most progressives to drift into the Democrats. Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan’s conservative revolution succeeded, but the New Left takeover of the Democratic Party in the 1970s was eventually undone by moderates led by Bill Clinton.
One factor that might doom Trump’s revolution like George McGovern’s New Left is that it lacks poplar support. Like the New Left politics of the 1970s, Trump’s nationalism has found a small passionate and audience, but lacks popular appeal. Polls indicate Donald is not doing as well as the moderate Mitt Romney did in 2012.
The question we need to ask is if Donald Trump will destroy the Republican Party, but how he will transform it. What is happening to the Republicans is change not destruction.