Donald Trump, his supporters and detractors can all agree, has transformed the Republican Party. Now that his final competitors, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, have dropped out of the race, what impact will this have on the GOP?
A More Nativist Direction Under Donald Trump
The first and most obvious way Trump will change the Republican Party is that it will take on a more nativist stance, particularly on immigration.
In January, CNN surveyed over 150 people in 31 cities to find out what was behind the Trump phenomenon. Their research led them to conclude that The Donald's biggest supporters are, "Men and women, overwhelmingly white, frustrated with the country's first black president, fearful that they are being displaced by minorities and immigrants, and nostalgic for the way America used to be."
While Trump's call to "bomb the s**t out of ISIS" after the San Bernardino terrorist attack offended some because of the language he used, it resonated with his supporters.
CNN found that Trump's supporters also expressed resentment over illegal aliens' perceived ability to get work and government benefits, while legal immigrants who "play by the rules" have to wait several years to become citizens.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that a lot of Trump's appeal is because, "He isn't afraid to say the things they also say, even if those things are deemed racist, sexist, xenophobic or politically incorrect."
The risk, though, is that Trump's politically incorrect statements will shrink his appeal -- more on this later.
However, the biggest reason that a Trump-led Republican Party will be more nativistic is because of his signature issue: building a large wall at the Mexican border and demanding that Mexico pay for it.
The strong appeal of this wall among Trump supporters was apparent at one of his campaign stops. He asked the crowded auditorium, "Who's going to pay for the wall?"
They shouted back, "Mexico!"
"Who?" Trump asked, cupping his hand to his ear.
"Mexico," they shouted even louder.
Trump then recalled that a reporter told him that Mexico's former president said that his country would never pay for it and asked for Trump's response.
"I said, 'The wall just got ten feet higher,'" Trump boasted to cheers.
In contrast to Trump's hardcore stance, many Republican leaders had been hoping to woo the growing Hispanic population -- the Pew Research Center reports that there were 55.3 million Hispanics in the U.S. in 2014, comprising 17.3 percent of the American population. In 1980, those numbers were 14.8 million and 6.5 percent, respectively.
The 2016 GOP presidential field featured several candidates who deliberately took a softer stance on immigration, including Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. But Donald Trump's emergence (as well as that of Ted Cruz, who also took a strong anti-immigration stance) made it clear that most Republican voters were not on board.
Whether or not Trump would succeed in building his proposal wall -- let alone getting Mexico to pay for it -- is beside the point at the moment. Trump's supporters responded to it, making very clear that this is a top issue for them.
As the Inquisitr reported yesterday, support for Donald Trump -- especially from males -- is very strong, and not easily swayed. A study showed that even after being shown anti-Trump ads, none of the men were persuaded to end their support of Trump, while eight percent of the women were among the 3,500-plus who were surveyed.
Trump's Republican Party: Less Socially Conservative
Since 1980, a key Republican Party constituency has been evangelical voters, which was highlighted by the "Moral Majority" in the 1980s and Christian Coalition in the 1990s. Their influence was instrumental in getting the GOP to place strong pro-life language in the party platform that included opposition to abortion even in the case of rape.
That will likely change under Donald Trump, who told CNN's Dana Bash last July that he is pro-life with the exceptions of rape, incest, and endangerment of life to the mother. When asked if he would change the party platform, Trump responded, "I think it would be something I would seriously discuss with the people in the Republican Party."
Another issue of concern to social conservatives is the transgendered and especially the controversy over bathrooms for them in retail stores like Target.
But The Washington Post noted that while Cruz made an issue over Donald Trump's nonchalance on the issue in Indiana prior to yesterday's primary, Trump nonetheless beat Cruz among evangelicals in that state by five percent.
The Washington Times also found that the transgender bathroom issue didn't resonate with Trump supporters. "That's not important," Susan Roth, 60, a housewife and conservative Republican, told The Times. "I'm worried about jobs, the economy, Syrian refugees. I could care less about transgender bathrooms."
A Minority Party Under Donald Trump
But of greatest concern to GOP leaders is the possibility that Trump will shrink, rather than grow, the Republican Party -- especially in the demographics where it has suffered the last few election cycles.
This is where the immigration issue -- particularly Trump's proposed wall at the Mexican border -- is a two-edged sword: while it grows his support from ranks of white voters unsatisfied with Republicans on this issue, it runs the risk of shrinking his support from racial minorities, especially since the Pew Hispanic Center notes that 31 percent of voters in 2016 will be minorities.
The Pew Hispanic Center also reported that Hispanic support for GOP presidential candidates has declined in the last three consecutive elections: 40 percent of Hispanics voted for George W. Bush in 2004, 31 percent for John McCain in 2008, and 27 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012.
[caption id="attachment_3063154" align="alignnone" width="670"] Protesters march against Donald Trump in California.[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images][/caption]Gallup found that Donald Trump will also have significant problems with woman voters, who give him 70 percent disapproval ratings. Only 23 percent of women surveyed view him favorably.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls finds Trump has a 65.4 percent average disapproval rating.
Lastly, Trump's penchant for conspiracy theories could severely handicap his efforts to reach beyond his base. In 2011, Trump made much of President Barack Obama's place of birth, and hence his eligibility to be president. The Washington Times noted then that Trump's hyping the "birther" issue was a key factor in his high polling amongst prospective Republicans.
But yesterday produced a bizarre moment in this regard: while being interviewed by Fox And Friends, Trump stated that Cruz's father, evangelist Rafael Cruz, "was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to" the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963. There is no hard evidence for Trump's assertion, however.
Short of outright apologies, such statements could be very difficult for Trump to walk back when courting mainstream voters.
The #NeverTrump Movement Will Remain
It remains to be seen how many supporters of the #NeverTrump movement will make good on their promise to not vote for Trump, as his supporters in the media like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly will continually raise the specter of a Hillary Clinton presidency.
But not long after Trump defeated Cruz in Indiana, those who oppose the real estate magnate were out in full force.
The Resurgent, a site that has led the #NeverTrump movement, wrote, "We must ensure that Trump loses...If it's Hillary, we deserve her for allowing [Trump] to blind us."
National Review, which surprised readers in January with it's "Against Trump" issue, expressed their disappointment in an editorial, saying, "We regret that Trump will be the Republican nominee and think Senator Cruz, our preferred candidate, would have been vastly better.
"Trump has done little to demonstrate any commitment to, or even understanding of, conservative principles; his instinct seems to be to use government power to silence his critics; he has no experience in government, a lack that we persist in seeing as a bad thing; his ethical record is disturbing; he will simply make things up when it suits his purposes; he traffics in conspiracy theories about everything from Iraq to the JFK assassination; he exhibits little self-control."National Review gave no indication that they would urge their readers to support Trump in November.
But why does their support for Donald Trump -- or lack thereof -- matter? Because traditional Republican voters -- most of whom were likely among the 60-plus percent who voted for other candidates in the GOP primaries -- are now left without a candidate to support.
Last night, RNC chairman Reince Priebus tweeted that with Trump now assured the nomination, it is incumbent upon the party to unite around him.
While many may eventually vote for Trump, it's improbable that all of them will, as Pew Research found that only 38 percent of Republicans would "solidly unite" behind Donald Trump. Many will sit out the election, which will seriously endanger GOP candidates and incumbents in down-ballot Senate and House races.
David French of National Review opined that among other things, conservatives should maintain their opposition to Donald Trump.
"For at least a generation, the Left has been arguing that American conservatism is shot through with racism, sexism, and xenophobia. And now millions of Americans will face the difficult task of rebutting charges of hateful bigotry while supporting a man who gives aid and comfort to avowed racists, incites violence, and can't even consistently disavow the Klan. Trump is the destroyer of conservatism, and he will taint all who take his side."French also argued that conservatives should continue supporting down-ballot candidates, and "reject the cult of celebrity in favor of building enduring, meaningful conservative cultural institutions."
It remains to be seen if there is a third-party alternative to Donald Trump.
What do you think? What affect will Donald Trump have on the Republican Party and America?
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]