What happened to the Republican Party? The party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower has somehow morphed into the party of Boehner, McConnell, and Cantor. Compromise is a dirty word, and dedication to eliminating a single program trumps all else. Thanks to Republican obstruction, the latest Congress put the ‘Do Nothing Congress’ to shame.
To understand the madness sweeping the Republican Party, consider this fact: a third of Louisiana Republicans blame President Obama for the response to Hurricane Katrina. The storm hit roughly 3 and a half years before Obama took office. This is not the first time Obama has been blamed for something that happened before his term. Republicans have also tried to pin the Wall Street bailout on the current president many times, despite President Bush executing that particular policy.
The implosion of the Bush presidency in late 2008 can be blamed for a lot of the problems. His failures led to the ascension of Barack Obama, something that put many Republicans over the edge for one reason or another. In early 2009, ordinary Republicans revolted and formed the Tea Party. While advertised as a grassroots movement consisting of people who had never been a part of the political process, it was clear from the beginning that the Tea Party was just regular old Republicans under a new brand.
While the Tea Party may not have been what it was advertised to be, its members were certainly determined. The powers that be in the Republican Party quickly took advantage of the situation. Conservative news network Fox News sent several of its popular TV hosts to Tea Party rallies around the country. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and the group Freedomworks essentially co-opted the movement and sponsored many of the rallies. Corporate leadership was there from nearly the beginning.
Republican leadership would later come to regret backing the Tea Party so strongly. Where the movement has had the most impact is in Republican primaries. The group was well organized, and unlike the Occupy Wall Street movement, Tea Party members showed up to vote. They torpedoed several moderate candidates in GOP primaries. While Republicans were able to take back the House in the 2010 elections, the Tea Party push cost them a chance to retake the Senate.
Tea Party participation in primaries is what has pushed Republicans over the cliff. Republican lawmakers are so afraid of a challenge from the right in a primary that they have abandoned reason and logic when legislating. Since coming into power in 2010, Republicans have voted to appeal Obamacare over 40 times, despite the fact that they know the Democratic controlled Senate nor the Democratic President would ever sign off on the legislation. These pointless votes are a waste of the taxpayer’s time and money, but they appease the Tea Party members who control Republican’s fate.
Tea Party policies are hurting Republican’s long term viability in the US. Immigration is what will ultimately doom the party if they don’t moderate their position. Tea Party members are vehemently against immigration reform, but the resistance usually comes off as anti-Hispanic. This demographic is one of the fastest growing in the US, and is going to dominate several key states in the southwest in the years to come. The Republican stronghold of Texas is projected to change from red to purple in the next few years thanks to the Hispanic population. This one issue could take the Republicans out of the presidential race within a few cycles.
The immigration dilemma is particularly discouraging to Republicans. Hispanics could be natural voters for the GOP, as they are generally religious and hold values similar to most social conservatives. Big business, long a staple of the Republican Party, also backs immigration reform. Despite all of these headwinds, some Republicans refuse to embrace reform out of fear of a primary challenge.
Despite all of these problems, Republicans are still believed to have a strong chance to retake the Senate in the 2014 midterms. They are also not likely to lose the House anytime soon thanks to gerrymandering. Even if they do, President Obama will still be president for two more years. Republicans are then looking at the prospect of facing Hillary Clinton in 2016. She would likely be one of the biggest favorites in a presidential election in recent memory. While the Republicans may control Congress, it is doubtful that they will have a veto proof majority. Will they still push for policies they know a Democratic president won’t sign?
It is important to remember that the primary problem is one the Republicans created. Without the backing of traditional Republican powers like Fox News and Freedomworks, the Tea Party would not hold nearly the clout it does now. They created the monster, and now it will no longer follow their orders. The American people have been collateral damage in this civil war for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.
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