The GOP Civil War Is On

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

TeaPartyFlagThe so-called Tea Party far-right radical fringe is preparing to devour conservative Republican candidates in GOP primaries — whom they call RINOs — because they are not sufficiently radical or extreme enough.

The GOP civil war is on. See Bloomberg News, Republican Civil War Erupts: Business Groups v. Tea Party, POLITICO Tiger Beat on The Potomac, Donors' frustration with GOP mounts, and today's New York Times, Fiscal
Crisis Sounds the Charge in G.O.P.’s ‘Civil War’
.

I would argue that it is in the best interest of the country for the unsustainable GOP coalition to end its failed marriage of convenience and to go their separate ways. This uncompatible coalition of diverse groups should form their own political parties and platforms which accurately reflect their diverse political ideologies.

This would give voters a true choice in November, not a faux choice decided by partisan activists in low turnout GOP primaries. If the so-called Tea Party truly believes that it enjoys popular support, then it should prove it by running under its own party label and platform, rather than hijacking the traditional Republican Party label and deceiving voters by running under a false flag.

The traditional Republican Party is a center-right business oriented political party, and should retain its historic party label.

The so-called Tea Party is a collection of far-right radical extremists from the Neo-Confederate Birthers-Birchers-Secessionists, nativist anti-immigrant "Know Nothings," and the theocratic Christian Reconstructionists and Dominionists. They are ideological purists and religious fanatics who view legislative defeats as a test of their faith — "we can win if only our faith is strong." These are the kind of fanatics who do not respond to facts, logic or reason. It is a question of faith for them. They believe they are waging a Holy Crusade. See Ed Kilgore at the Political Animal blog, Constitutional Conservatism As a Religion.

In a must-read analysis for tradiitonal Republicans, Curtis Gans writes at the Washington Monthly, Why Only Republicans Can Save Us From the Tea Party:

There is only one route to restoring health to the American polity,
comity to its dialogue, constructive and collegial approaches to
governance, an end to extortion and a restoration of the belief that the
United States truly has a government of, for and by its citizenry.

That way is to defang and defeat the Tea Party, the far right-wing of
the Republican Party, their supporters, enablers, acolytes and
cheerleaders. They are the principal source of governmental paralysis,
unbridgeable political divisions, continuing and dangerous economic
brinkmanship, extremist policies and a growing lack of respect for the
political process in general and the Republican Party in particular.
They need to be dislodged from the elected positions of power and
influence they currently enjoy in both Congress and state legislatures.

* * *

Only a similar major grassroots effort in GOP primaries by mainstream
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now can reverse the
destruction the right-wing is wreaking to party and country.

The first step on this road is to cease dignifying the far right with the word “conservative.”

The essential underpinnings of conservatism from Burke to Buckley
have been a respect for the institutions of both governance and society,
moderation in manner, skepticism about major and abrupt change and a
concomitant rejection of extremes. True conservatives’ belief in
traditional values is leavened by a tolerance for diverse views. Their
support for free markets is tempered by understanding the need for
constructive regulation of their excesses. They are committed to human
equality and support equality of opportunity without a mandate for
equality of result. Their vision of governance is by representative
rather than direct democracy and, where possible, a civil approach to
political dialogue and a rational approach to public policy.

The Republican right-wing is the antithesis of historical
conservatism. It is radical in approach, extremist and reactionary in
viewpoint, uncompromising in mode of operation, lacking in respect for
the institutions that undergird the American republic and contemptuous
of any opposition to their viewpoint
.

The second step is to understand that the damage the Republican
right-wing has done to its party and the nation is fundamentally
different than what happened to the Democratic Party in the 1970s and
1980s – despite the claims of symmetry by such distinguished analysts as
Andrew Kohut, William Galston and Elaine Kamarck.

* * *

[T]he Democrats never allowed the New Left a place at their table.
While there were differences among the Blue Dog Democrats, the
Democratic Leadership Council, liberals and labor, the differences were
never so wide as to tear the party asunder and most found resolution
somewhere in the middle, although in some cases, most notably welfare
reform, that middle didn’t yield sound policy.

The problems that the Republican right-wing has inflicted on its party and nation are of a geometrically greater magnitude:

They have rendered their party unrecognizable to the Republicanism
of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Dwight
Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and even
George W. Bush
.

—Using state nominating processes, they have destroyed the honorable
careers of a number of distinguished office-holders, most notably former
Sens. Bob Bennett and Richard Lugar and are trying to do the same to
the equally distinguished Lamar Alexander and Lindsay Graham.

—They have propelled the nomination of unelectable statewide
candidates – Ken Buck in Colorado, Linda McMahon in Connecticut,
Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Todd Akin
in Missouri and Sharron Angle in Nevada — in races that were seen by
pollsters as winnable by the GOP before these nominations.

They have made comity and compromise in Congress impossible and have
helped make this year’s Congress and the preceding one the least
productive in recent memory with the lowest public favorability ratings
(now below 10 percent) in polling history
.

They have virtually emasculated their party’s saner leadership and
forced sensible lawmakers to adopt their extreme positions for fear they
will be successfully challenged in their party’s primary contests
.

—Their deeply unpopular litmus test issues made it virtually
impossible for the party’s national candidates and leaders to speak to
the needs and desires of a majority of Americans.

They have attempted to hold governmental funding and the statutory
debt limit hostage to unwise and unattainable public policy aims.
They
have succeeded in using those tools to sequester government spending
and, by virtue of that, weaken national defense, education, law
enforcement and many other needed and constructive aspects of
government. And they plan to attempt to conduct this type of blackmail
and extortion again and again.

The fundamental difference between today’s right-wing Republicans and
the ‘70s and ‘80s Democratic left is not simply that the GOP right-wing
is more extreme, which it certainly is, but that it has power — via its
office-holders in state legislatures and Congress. Policy adjustments
could solve the Democratic divisions of yore. Only wresting power from
the Republican extremists can save the GOP
.

The right-wing derives its power from a variety of sources. They are
very well funded by the Koch brothers, the Club for Growth and other
anti-government sources. They have a very visible band of cheerleaders,
including Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint’s
Heritage Foundation
and, at least in Congress, they have a leadership
group of enablers, including Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan and
John Boehner.

But there are three more important factors that have contributed to their ascendancy.

First, they were the principal beneficiaries of the results of the
2010 election – in Obama’s words, the “shellacking” the Democrats
suffered that allowed the GOP to claim majorities in a greater number of
state legislative chambers than in any year since 1946. The year was
particularly important because it was the year of the decennial Census,
the subsequent redrawing of Congressional and state legislative
districts. With the control of a larger number of state legislative
chambers, the GOP was able to draw a larger number of safe one-party
legislative districts that favored their party.

They also have understood that they and what they stood for
represented a small minority in the nation and had a sophisticated
understanding of how they might leverage that minority status into
power. It is the reason they have supported caucuses for the nomination
of convention delegates that their organized zealotry could control
rather than primaries that they might not.
Following upon this strategy,
they, like Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, seek
conventions they can control to nominate statewide candidates rather
than primaries that they can’t. (And if the right-wing had its druthers,
they would repeal the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and have state
legislatures, some of which they control, choose U.S. Senators, rather
than have them chosen by a popular vote in a general election.)

Their strategic path to elected power has been to run primary
candidates for state legislature and Congress in one-party districts,
including the additional ones they have helped create. They have done so
because turnout in those contests is abysmally low.
The average turnout
for a statewide Democratic primary (for governor or U.S. Senate) is
slightly over 10 percent of the eligible electorate. The average turnout
for a statewide Republican primary tends to be around nine percent or
less.
Turnout for Congressional primaries is smaller and is even smaller
for state legislative primaries. That, in turn, means that an organized
minority representing the views of no more than four percent of the
electorate can win those primaries and, by virtue of the one-party
nature of the districts, effectively elect their candidate to office.

The organized minority in the Republican Party is now and has been for
several years its extremist right-wing.

Those elected are also potential candidates for higher office. But
whether they achieve these ambitions – and they have in places like
Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin – they serve
to create paralysis in both Washington and some states and deeply
reactionary laws in others.

Finally, the legitimate conservatives, moderates and few remaining
liberals in the Republican Party have failed to engage in grassroots
organizing since before 1964
while the right-wingers have maintained and
expanded extensive grassroots organizations since they were first
mobilized by Clifton White for the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry
Goldwater.

The Democrats cannot rescue the Republicans from their extreme
officeholders.
At best, because of the extremism and obstruction of the
Congressional GOP, the Democrats won’t lose control of the Senate and
may even have a small gain. They may gain a few seats in the U.S. House
and state legislatures, but because of the post-2010 Census
redistricting, there are not sufficient Republican one-party districts
where the Democrats have a chance to make major inroads.

* * *

The only durable way to fight and overcome the influence the right-wing
has amassed is for sensible Republicans and GOP-leaning independents to
pursue precisely the strategies that allowed the extremists to gain the
power that they now have.
They must put forward a manifesto of true
conservative principles and sensible policies that can appeal to
mainstream Americans. They must carry that manifesto into battle in the
same one-party districts that have elected right-wing office-holders. It
means doing what these groups have failed to do for a half-century –
get engaged in grassroots organization and hand-to-hand political
combat. They should go into battle with the same understanding of the
low-turnout terrain that allowed a small reactionary minority to gain
power and in the belief that their common sense approach can draw at
least as many to the polls as did the extremists
. If common sense
campaigns and candidates cannot draw more than the three or four percent
of voters that propelled craziness into office, then there is something
deeply wrong with America.

Such an effort will require leadership with stature, commitment, large
sums of money, organizational skill, political savvy and the involvement
of thousands. But the leadership is there if it wants to act. . . . Most traditional suppliers of Republican money are appalled by the
Republican Party they now view and would likely be able to provide more
than enough money to mount such an effort. Some business leaders are
already mounting such campaigns against individual Tea Party
office-holders in at least three states. The big engine that could can
be created.

The need for such a massive effort is major and compelling on two
levels. The first is that the structure of American democracy depends on
a functioning two party system
— one that is broad enough to encompass
the needs and aspirations of a large majority of American citizens, one
that can organize the debate and consideration of major policy issues in
a constructive manner, one that is pragmatic enough to find common
ground when the needs of the nation outweigh the desires of partisans,
one that can earn the respect of the American public.

The second is fear of what might happen if the rescue of sane American
politics is not undertaken.
Almost every national election is a
referendum on current political and economic conditions and the record
of the party in power. Because the present Republican Party has adopted a
policy of “No,” blocking any effort to use fiscal tools to restore
health to the American economy, because that recovery is not certain and
not vigorous and because of as yet unforeseen events, the Democratic
Party may be in 2016, as it was in 2010, highly unpopular. That, in
turn, may pave the way for a Republican return to power. But to return
the current Republican Party to power, one that is controlled in part by
the irrational demands of its right-wing to essentially dismantle the
welfare state and eviscerate constructive governmental intervention to
address major societal needs from education to infrastructure, is to
threaten the health and continued viability of the American democratic
system.
American democracy cannot continue to have its only political
choices be between a moderately liberal 21st Century party and a party
held hostage to the worst of 19th Century notions about economics,
governance and human equality.

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