We did this to ourselves.
From pandering to Falwell and his Religious Right to the idea of the “Big Tent” to coddling the fringes within third parties in hopes of electoral success, Republicans have set themselves up for the internal struggle that is currently on display.
Democrats have effectively cleansed their party of what were considered blue dogs, the more moderate, even conservative wing of their liberal party. All that remains on the left are pure bred yellow dogs, even in Southern states such as Mississippi where until just four years ago Democrats held significant sway in state government.
What we are seeing in the Republican Party today is the only real public policy and political strategy debate in America but it is not viewed in those terms. Democrats are firmly set in their ideology with little to no debate other than how swiftly to continue their tilt toward socialism, which is how the Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders race can best be described.
Over the last few years Republicans have heard a lot from the “far right fringe,” Tea Party crowd who frequently take to social media to openly bash the GOP, calling them every name under the sun, from RINO to derogatory terms for women’s anatomy while proudly proclaiming the name of Christ in their bylines. Such hypocrisy is swiftly dismissed.
These folks have wrapped themselves in the Republican moniker but are actually the RINOs – Republicans In Name Only. The leaders of these movements and the divisive ideology they spew are primarily Libertarians and Reform Partiers who could not ever win an election or have their ideals go mainstream unless they wrapped them in another banner, the closest being the GOP. It is a result of the Big Tent.
Thus what has happened within the Republican Party is an intraparty war between what these outsiders have termed “the establishment” – the longtime GOP party leaders and workers who they oppose and would replace with their own would be establishment – and themselves. It’s the classic divide and conquer.
When they say they are fighting for the “heart of the party” what they are really saying is they are fighting to takeover the Republican Party and remake it in their own third party image. Unfortunately, those third parties have no track record of success in elections or significantly influencing public policy.
These crossovers have branded themselves as “true conservatives” while demonizing anyone who challenges them in thought or strategy. It’s a smart play, appealing to the lowest common denominator of fear within the conservative base, which is already leery of big government, fiscal insanity and social liberalism (i.e. political correctness, untraditional family values, etc.). Hence, it’s easy for them to paint all who question them or who are not with them 100% as enemy number one, and who must be ostracized, demonized and taken down at all costs. It is a tactic old school Democrat bosses readily employed just a generation ago.
These RINOs had some electoral success in 2010 and 2012, aided by Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama’s liberal rhetoric and the explosion of social media. It gave rise to Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, both more Libertarian or Reform minded than Republican. Neither has been particularly successful in terms of governance, yet are seen as leaders among many for no other reason than their overhyped, ear tickling rhetoric which appeals to average, working class conservative Americans who either do not or choose not to understand what it means to actually govern instead of campaign, sell merchandise, or hit the speakers’ circuit.
The Senate and House races of 2014 opened some eyes to the lack of successes amidst the hype of these crossovers with losses coming mainly because of the volatile and questionable nature of their campaigns. The push was heavy in red states like Mississippi.
Then comes 2015 and the rise of Donald Trump, a man who just a decade ago would not have gained 5 percent in any GOP poll due to the nature of his business, personal and political background and connections. Yet now the red meat rhetoric is as thick as ever and these RINOs – the Libertarians, Reform Partiers and other “conservatives” – have found a candidate with the money and Hollywood persona to stake out a place among the Republican “establishment” no other has yet to achieve. Their Golden Boy, Cruz, is playing nice with Trump hoping to ride his wave should the billionaire implode or perhaps ride his coattails to the Vice Presidency. Make no mistake – that is their ultimate play.
Traditional Republicans – those who value practical governance – are growing weary of the side show and are left to ponder what’s next for their Grand Ole Party.
Marco Rubio is perhaps the best candidate in the 2016 presidential field to coalesce all sides of the new Republican Big Tent Party but as we have seen of late that’s not what these Libertarian, Reform RINOs want. They are more than willing to burn the house down and hand the White House and Congress to the Democrats for the sake of themselves and their rhetoric.
Not all of this is bad, however. If the Republican Party could bring all of these factions to the table, a stronger party could be developed. Few of these factions differ in word on fiscal responsibility, smaller government, a strong defense, personal responsibility, traditional family values and the like. However, the devil is in the strategy, tone, and timing to achieve these principal goals. Unless the intended divisiveness does not cease and the idea that practical, results driven governance is paramount is returned to the forefront successes in terms of federal public policy and the national ballot box will be few and far between in years to come.