On Wednesday, Nate Silver published an article called, “Maybe Republicans Really Are In Disarray: Nate Silver debates Nate Silver,” which effectively laid out both sides of the debate. On the pro side, Silver bases his argument on an interview with Thomas Mann (Brookings) and Norm Ornstein (AEI) about how the Republicans are a “broken, dysfunctional party”—an argument they have been articulating for years.
Silver lays out a few pieces of evidence that lend credence to this theory beyond the polls; the ouster of John Boehner by the House Freedom Caucus, fights over the debt ceiling, data that show that current Republicans are more conservative than in years past—and have moved further to the right than Democrats have to the left—and finally, that Republicans are taking longer and longer to choose their presidential nominee.
There are holes in this story, however, Silver argues. The supposed ‘disarray’ in Congress and embarrassment over the shutdown seemed not to hurt Republicans in the 2010 or 2014. Just because Republicans are more conservative than years past does not necessarily mean they are a broken party—although it does make legislating more difficult when Democrats control the White House.
One key data point Silver acknowledges lends substantial weight to the disarray theory is the scant number of lawmaker endorsements of presidential candidates—even establishment candidates are struggling to garner endorsements. This is unusual and suggests some deep disagreements within the party that will eventually have to be resolved—even if it means not getting a nominee until well after Super Tuesday.