The election of a Black president, particularly Barack Obama, spelled disaster for the GOP from day one. What we are seeing today in the form of a Trump political devolution and the outlandish acting out of the Bundy progeny is a symptom of a party that has collapsed. The American coalition of conservative interests has been held together through a number of economic and social upheavals over the years.
However, the most pronounced political realignment in modern times took place when the right wing Dixiecrats jumped to the GOP in reaction to the civil rights bill. People who placed a mix of religion and racism at the top of their political/social priority list found themselves caught up in a party that neither understood, nor accepted their beliefs so they moved on. Within a few years, the Southern Strategy was born and the party evolved into its current form. The anti federal government sentiment of the Southern confederates blended perfectly with the anti-regulation positions of the wealthy free market capitalists. The wealthy capitalist wing of the party, currently referred to as the “establishment,” realized that they could make a very comfortable living off of hollow promises and coded messages of racial resentment. Ronald Reagan, a true master of the game, gutted working class laws while spinning tall tales about welfare queens. The GOP establishment continuously delivered tax cuts for themselves and promises to return America to the good old days for the White working class.
Barack Obama personified everything the GOP's Neo-Confederate class feared. A country where people of color and progressives outnumbered native whites wasn't yet a numerical reality but to them, that power dynamic had arrived early. This created a political problem that the conservative coalition couldn't survive. The Southern conservative base demanded that their racial resentment towards the president and their religious social agenda be placed above all else. This meant closing the government and collapsing the economy if necessary. Unfortunately for them, the capitalists needed the wheels of government to continue so that they could maintain a political and economic system that kept them rich and happy. The tension between these positions created a toxic political environment for Washington conservatives. The base grew frustrated with what they interpreted as capitulation to evil multicultural and secular forces while the establishment grew equally frustrated with a system of priorities that they didn't understand. The establishment didn't understand that the symbolic actions of Joe Wilson and Cliven Bundy were symptomatic of a problem that they wouldn't be able to contain. These rebellious acts were symbolic of the confederate anti-government sentiment and completely unrelated to their capitalist vision of less government regulation and more corporate profits. On some level they also represented a rebellion against the establishment's refusal to embrace the priorities of the angry White Southern base. The signs of dissent were either ignored or misinterpreted and now, I suspect, that the time for reconciliation between the conservative factions has passed. The establishment is willing to compromise the values of the Neo-confederate base in order to maintain a stable economic system and the base has figured it out.
The GOP base expected the establishment to end Obamacare and stop the President from acting on any of his stated initiatives. This would also establish their goal of delegitimizing his right to hold office. To them, the acceptance of any presidential initiative was an acknowledgement of his right to hold office and unacceptable on any level. The establishment could never deliver on their promises and the fate of the coalition was sealed. The base saw no room for fence sitting. They perceived their way of life at risk and the establishment, in choosing to keep government running, has thrown them to the forces of evil. An establishment that could, on any level, be comfortable with a Black secular President could never coexist with a Southern base longing for a return to a hierarchical antebellum society that didn't benefit them when it existed the first time. The Base despises the power structure of the GOP and any organization in which the rank and file refuses to accept its leadership has already collapsed.
The GOP establishment was not prepared to navigate the unique political dynamic created by the election of Barack Obama and their reaction to Donald Trump's popularity indicates that they have learned exactly nothing about the motivations of those who they took for granted for so long. The GOP base very clearly understands that the conservative coalition that has worked since the mid-sixties is no more, the only question is how long it will take the establishment republicans to come to this obvious conclusion.