As we watch the 2016 Republican primaries unfold in often-surprising ways, it is clear that there is a strong desire among Republican primary voters for change within the party.  Sick of what Ted Cruz calls “the Washington Cartel” and of the “election conservatives” who managed for so long to convince voters they uphold conservative values and principles, Republican primary voters are taking a stand.

It began before Obama was elected, while President Bush was still in office, and has since only gained in strength and resolve, and the GOP establishment has been slow to notice or grasp what is happening.

They saw glimpses of it in the TEA Party in 2009 and ’10 and worked side-by-side with Democrats to diminish its influence, they may have noticed something was changing in the 2010 and 2014 mid-terms, they probably got a more clear picture when Eric Cantor (then House GOP whip) was booted out of office, and they started to pay attention when Speaker Boehner was also forced out.  They thought they could handle it, though, so they plowed ahead . . . pushing Jeb Bush as the next in line for the presidency, and that’s when things started to go so terribly wrong for the GOP establishment that they are finally sitting up and taking notice.

According to The New York Times, Republican “leaders” are now deeply concerned about a long-term split in the party, one that will not be repaired with the usual smoke, mirrors, promises, and lies.  They find this worrying.

The NYT reports:

The Republican Party is facing a historic split over its fundamental principles and identity, as its once powerful establishment grapples with an eruption of class tensions, ethnic resentments and mistrust among working-class conservatives who are demanding a presidential nominee who represents their interests.

At family dinners and New Year’s parties, in conference calls and at private lunches, longtime Republicans are expressing a growing fear that the coming election could be shattering for the party, or reshape it in ways that leave it unrecognizable.

. . . . Rank-and-file conservatives, after decades of deferring to party elites, are trying to stage what is effectively a people’s coup by selecting a standard-bearer who is not the preferred candidate of wealthy donors and elected officials.

For those of us who still hold dear the quaint notion that those elected to office should be representatives of the people to Washington (and not vice versa), this point may seem a bit odd.  After all, isn’t it their job–their duty–to represent the people who elected them, to keep the promises they make (over and over) on the election trail, to work for the people and not their own interests?

That deference appears to be waning, and it has Republican establishment figures concerned.

The NYT continues:

The issues animating grass-roots voters — opposition to immigration, worries about wages and discomfort with America’s fast-changing demographics — are diverging from and at times colliding with the Republican establishment’s interests in free trade, lower taxes, less regulation and openness to immigration.

“I haven’t seen this large of a division in my career,” said Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican first elected to Congress in 1982. “You probably have to go back to Ford versus Reagan in 1976. But that was only two people.”

There is indeed a great divide between Republican politicians in Washington and the people they were elected to represent.

The NYT reports:

The divide was evident at a recent Greenville, S.C., gathering of bankers and lawyers, reliable Republicans who shared tea and pastries and their growing anxieties about where their party is going. In a meeting room near the wooded shore of Furman Lake, the group of mostly older white men expressed concern that their party was fracturing over free trade, immigration and Wall Street. And they worried that their candidates — mainstream conservatives like Jeb Bush — were losing.

“It’s all really hard to believe that decades of Republican ideas are at risk,” said Barry Wynn, a prominent Bush donor at the meeting.

The strains on Republicanism are driven home by scenes like the 1,500 people who waited two hours in 10-degree weather on Tuesday night to see Mr. Trump campaign in Claremont, N.H. And the 700 who jammed the student center of an Iowa Christian college the same evening to hear Mr. Cruz. These crowds were full of lunch-bucket conservatives who expressed frustration with the Republican gentry.

Decades of Republican policies at risk?  Like No Child Left Behind, the unfunded Medicare expansion, the “renewable fuel standard,” and a host of other big government, big spending policies?  Compassionate conservatism, or as its been rebranded now, “reform conservatism” isn’t conservative at all (the main reason that President Bush’s numbers sunk to such lows toward the end of his second term).  So yes, that brand of “conservatism” may well be at risk and with it, its proponents among the Republican establishment.

While the divide itself is nothing new, the trajectory of the 2016 Republican primary process is.

The NYT continues:

“The Republican Party has never done anything for the working man like me, even though we’ve voted Republican for years,” said Leo Martin, a 62-year-old machinist from Newport, N.H., who attended Mr. Trump’s Claremont rally. “This election is the first in my life where we can change what it means to be a Republican.”

This anger has transformed the quadrennial exercise of picking a Republican nominee into a referendum on the future of one of the country’s two enduring political parties. Patrick J. Buchanan, a Nixon and Reagan adviser who ran for the Republican nomination in 1992 and 1996 by stressing the economic and cultural concerns of working-class Americans, said these voters were roiling the party because they had “suffered long enough.”

It still remains to be seen whether or not things will change within the Republican party, but one thing the track record of the Republican establishment suggests is that if they make it through the primary process (i.e. an establishment candidate is nominated), and even if they don’t win the White House, it will be business as usual in Washington.  This primary season will be chalked up as a minor rebellion of the great unwashed beaten back by their wiser elders . . . who long ago forgot their place.