In a Zocalo Public Square session in Los Angeles that was supposed to examine the strength and weaknesses of the Republican Party it was the two party system that got an examination. And the diagnosis was not hopeful.

Republican consultant Mike Madrid of Grassroots Lab said a transformation was coming to America’s political system and it would not be a transition to either the left or right but top down. He said a populism strain has cleaved both major political parties and it is tending to rip the parties apart.

Look no farther than the political leaders in Sacramento for agitation within the parties.

Republican minority leader Chad Mayes, who gathered votes for Gov. Jerry Brown’s cap-and-trade extension bill, is facing an intraparty fight to remove him from his leadership post—some even suggesting that he resign his seat. Meanwhile, Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is facing a recall and even received death threats from activists in his party who rebel against his decision to sidetrack a single-payer health care plan that was missing a funding mechanism.

The panel, moderated by Christina Bellantoni, assistant managing editor of politics for the Los Angeles Times, agreed that current attachment to a party is often driven by what people are against, often summed up as: “I’m a Republican because I know I’m not a Democrat, or I’m a Democrat because I know I’m not a Republican.”

In fact, Madrid argued that party dynamics are shifting. Madrid said that when he first became active in politics, the Republicans were the party of rich, old white people. “That party is now the Democratic Party,” Madrid said. “The Republican Party is now the party of poor white people.” Members of the latter demographic view themselves as an oppressed minority, he said.

While the national Republican Party shows strength—the strongest since Lincoln’s time according to Madrid–the California Republican Party is in trouble.

Former Arnold Schwarzenegger deputy chief of staff, Cassandra Pye, said the party has a “nail or two in the coffin’” because the registration numbers are low and falling. She considered one way to turn around the fate of the state party is to win a statewide office. “It’ll take a great candidate, it’ll take a lot of cash, it’ll take some good timing, and a little bit of luck,” she said.

Looking to the 2018 midterm elections and Democratic hopes of capturing the House by winning districts held by California Republicans, Madrid argued it would be hard to take away those seats. Madrid said that in the seven districts captured by Republicans in which Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump, voters appeared to skip the presidential race but voted for the Republican congressional member. Madrid argued that the Republican base in those districts is strong. He said of seven seats targeted by Democrats, only two, held by Steve Knight and Darrell Issa, are in danger of being turned and he wasn’t convinced that would happen.

Also, on the 2018 ballot will be the governor’s race in which many pundits argue no Republican need apply. However, Leslie Graves, publisher of Ballotpedia, the online Encyclopedia of American Politics, offered an intriguing notion. With the disarray in the political world due to the transformative populist attitudes, she suggested a disruptive candidate in the mold, if not the politics, of Donald Trump might do well in California.