Last week, the Republicans attempted to become a “big-tent party” that internally agrees to disagree. Won’t work. A big tense party is more like it.

Two Republican congresswomen — new member Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) — embody the fractured Republican Party. The problem: In trying to hold together a splintering GOP, Republican leaders keep making things worse. This party doesn’t want to hold together. Letting it fall apart and form a new party system may be wiser.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refused to punish Greene. He wished to avoid alienating the majority of House Republicans, who support both Trump and the “QAnon lady.” Greene has offered absurd conspiracy theories: school shootings were staged, no jetliner hit the Pentagon, protesters should “flood” the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be shot, and Jewish space lasers started California wildfires.

Protecting Greene, however, repels many mainstream Republicans. They argue that embracing extremists like her costs the party votes. Even Senate Minority Leader McConnell, who has trouble making up his mind, says he wants to oust “loony” conspiracy tweeters.

On the same day last week, House Republicans also declined to deprive Rep. Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican member, of her leadership position, as Trumpers demand. She was one of the 10 who voted to impeach Trump for his “incitement to insurrection.” Republicans have already begun efforts to drop her in 2022.

In doing this, the GOP risks defections of moderates. After the January 6 storming of the Capitol, thousands of Republican voters changed their registration, many to independent. Even a senator or two could turn independent, as Vermont’s Jim Jeffords did in 2001. That’s why, after long silence, McConnell finally came out in support of Cheney. Think independents can’t win elections? Look at Maine’s Sen. Angus King.

House Republicans avoided punishing either congresswoman — leaving, in effect, both to stand where they are — building inner-party tension and incoherence and probably hurting GOP chances to take back both houses of Congress in 2022. Can the house divided stand?

The closest historical analogy might be the 1948 formation of the Dixiecrats, those Southerners who split from the Democrats over President Truman’s integration of the armed forces. Although short-lived, the Dixiecrats began the migration of White Southern Democrats led by Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina to the Republicans that accelerated under LBJ.

True, the Democratic Party held together tolerably well from the 1870s to the 1960s, a strange confederation of farmers, unionists, liberals, Catholics and Southern Whites. Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Sen. William Fulbright bypassed the racial question.

We may be undergoing another party realignment. An L-shaped swath across the old slave states and up the Missouri has become the rural heartland of the aggreived White populism that Donald Trump harvested. They will be contested, however, by Republicans who, especially after January 6, have pulled away from Trump.

Some states with high-tech growth industries have modern, market-oriented Republican parties. We just saw this inner-party split in the Georgia runoff, where the modern Republicans in state-level offices rejected Trump’s orders to discard urban mail-in (i.e., Black) ballots. The prize is who gets to keep the name Republican.

A comparative-politics perspective: In 1977, the first post-Franco Spanish election saw two versions of major parties, the histórico and the renovado. The former hearkened back to the angry 1930s, the latter to a modern European identity. The moderns, center-right and center-left, won and have alternated in power ever since. My hunch: after a shakedown period, the American moderns will prevail too.

Democrats, who now own the Northeast and West Coast, just confirmed an alliance of Blacks and liberal/professional Whites. What’s interesting is that Blacks are the solid base. This could produce, briefly, a three-party system, two of them claiming to be Republican. But such systems are fleeting in America, where elections are structured to strongly disfavor third parties. When Teddy Roosevelt stalked out of the Republicans in 1912, he split the party and threw the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Recently, only about 10 “battleground” states really mattered, but more may join them. Most of the other states are so red or blue that they do not attract much time and money. Why bother with, say, California or New York when everybody knows how they’ll vote? The high taxes of these two states, though, cause many corporations to flee to sunbelt states, such as Texas and Florida, making them less-red and more-battleground, something that just happened in Georgia.

For 2022 and 2024, the Democrats should be delighted if Trumpists keep control of the GOP. Democrats will have a field day with the slogans, like: “You want to repeal the $15 minimum wage? Then vote Republican.” Or “Republicans better worry that the Jewish space laser will zap them.”

Several scholars attempt to explain QAnon adherents. Human cussedness explains much: I’m right, and you can’t persuade me otherwise!