The snake eating its own tail is an image that has long struck humanity as particularly meaningful. The ouroboros — deriving from the Greek word for "tail-devourer," according to Dictionary.com — is an ancient symbol representing the cycle of self-destruction and rebirth. It's touched various aspects of major cultures for millennia, from ancient Egyptian and Norse mythology to alchemy and Jungian psychology.
And it's a perfect archetype to describe the self-devouring snake of the American political landscape: the Republican Party. Like the snake, it can’t help destroying itself, ruining its chances at garnering the universal support to win a federal election. While it did gain a slim 222-seat majority in the House of Representatives, the country quickly saw what fractured leadership does to a party already in peril.
If you haven’t been watching C-SPAN lately, here’s a recap. As the House set out to elect its speaker, it became apparent the GOP was not going to fully coalesce around its top nominee, Rep. Kevin McCarthy. In fact, according to National Public Radio, for the first time in 100 years it took more than one vote for McCarthy to win — 15 votes, actually.
The political attacks practically make themselves: How does the GOP hope to run Congress — and possibly the White House — if they can’t agree on something as simple as picking their speaker of the House? It’s typically an easy process with few or no qualms. And it certainly never culminates in one representative being stopped from seemingly lunging at another, as we saw with Reps. Mike Rogers and Matt Gaetz.
But, looking closer at the Republican Party, the cracks seem a lot older than the debacle in the house. This event is a natural byproduct of a more cataclysmic shift that occurred when former President Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy in June 2015.
Since then, the GOP has devolved into new factions. There’s the “never Trump” side, which considers itself a sort of bastion of “traditional” conservatism — realistically, they agree with many of Trump’s policies, but find his persona bad for optics. More importantly, however, is the far right that has embraced Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message. While, according to Pew Research Center, this faction has been brewing in the GOP at least since the Tea Party movement in 2009, Trump’s status as a boisterous, unignorable figurehead brought it to a crescendo.
Not surprisingly, Trump announced another presidential candidacy in November. However, in a turn of events, he has stirred rumors of an independent bid should the party not nominate him — an article from the pro-Trump American Greatness, which Trump shared on Truth Social, argues for such a move. Dan Gelertner, the column's author, knows this would cost the GOP the presidency: but, he argues, that’s the point.
Obviously, this paints a pleasing picture for Democrats. I believe this fracturing of the Republican Party is for the greater good if we care to meaningfully uphold and expand our democracy. As demonstrated by the 2020 election fraud myth — and the attempts at stripping citizens of their rights to everything from obtaining an abortion to embracing their sexuality — the GOP is a radical party that aspires for absolute power.
Thankfully, without a clear leader, it seems to lack the competency to achieve these aspirations.
It’s hard to imagine Trump’s base supporting any other candidate when they believe he is owed a term that was “stolen” from him. And it’s hard to imagine his base ever trusting a Republican Party that antagonizes him. Ironically, Trump and Ron DeSantis — if that is who the GOP nominates — are not far apart ideologically. But, Trump has a cult of personality, and when his supporters idolize him in an almost religious fervor, a new party with him at the center starts to make sense.
Sooner or later, after however many losses, a fractured, smaller Republican Party will be forced to reckon with itself. Maybe like the ouroboros, a new third party will be a short-lived fad forcing the GOP to deradicalize — because, like the snake, it must self-destruct in order to reincarnate anew. And if that is what the future holds, American democracy will be better for it.
Joey Sills (he/him) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.