Republican reinvention seems to be a mantra among them since the reelection of Obama. But they can’t seem to agree on what reinvention should mean. Should they become more conservative, or should they abandon the extremism that cost them the Presidency?
Republicans are fully aware that they lost the presidency, and worse, they lost a couple of more seats in the Senate. And they know full well that four Senate seats at least, were lost over the past two cycles, because their candidates said something insanely stupid that said candidate insisted was at the center of conservative thought. On the other hand, conservatives also know they lost only three seats in the House. The ratio went from R-240 – D-190 (a 50-seat difference) to R-237 – D-198 (a 39-seat difference). In truth they lost eleven seats net, in large part because five house seats were vacant, and Republicans picked up none of them. The problem is, Republicans can’t agree on why, or even exactly what, they lost.
Longtime GOP regulars give interviews in which they call for moving to the center and making the party accessible and more inclusive. In short, backing away from the extremism so much in evidence since 2009. Concurrently, Wall Street Journal columnists, Fox pundits and independent conservative members of the press are urging continuation of the blockade strategy of the past two years. The fact that by every independent measure, the blockades have added two percentage points to the unemployment rate, cut the recovery rate in half and gotten America’s credit rating reduced by Moody, Standard and Poor’s and other trusted financial advisers does not deter them. It’s not the American people these pundits and writers are worried about, it’s a possible threat to the ability of America’s wealthiest citizens to consolidate ever more of America’s wealth in ever fewer hands that concerns them.
These Republicans, TEA-Partiers and other extremists insist that it was they who received a mandate on November 6; a mandate to continue to obstruct any action by the Obama Administration that would help working Americans, or in any way appear to be a positive action on the part of Democrats. Their position is that they must become even more extreme, and to make that work, they must make the Democrats seem incompetent.
However, Old Guard Republicans, aging wealthy white men, those for whom the extremists fight, have begun to recognize that arrogance, flaunting of wealth and self-righteousness does not attract voters on the national stage. They gathered to talk about ways to persuade the rank and file that immigration reform, not round-‘em-up-and-truck-‘em-out, was the way to go. In interviews they point out that Romney came across as rich and disconnected. As if to underscore the point, Romney held his “victory” celebration, ultimately a somber acknowledgment of loss, as a small private gathering, to attend which even reporters were required to pay the minimum $1,000/plate entry fee.
The GOP Old Guard is looking for young, energetic leaders who can maintain the Party’s core values while persuading Latinos, blacks and American youth that those values aren’t just mean-spirited sanctimony. While they are saddled with the TEA Party, they are trying to persuade Republicans and Democrats that the extremism of the TEA Party is being tempered. That would be a really good argument, except that it’s not yet true.
That there will be Republican reinvention is likely a given. The real question seems to be, “Does the Old Guard still have the clout to effect change by getting new leaders that reflect their intent elected?” They may not. The TEA-Party has declared its intent to take over the Republican Party, labeling anyone in opposition a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only)… and they may have the ability to do it.
The problem for the Old Guard is, the TEA Party gains strength by believing that their majority was elected because the voters believed in their agenda. The Old Guard needs to understand that Democrats and Independents elected those House members… not because they supported the TEA Party’s national agenda, but because they voted for the personality of the person in the office. When it comes to Congressional races, Americans vote local, and totally forget about the national impact. Voters of all parties can’t seem to make a connection between the guy down the street who, “…got elected to Congress and sent me a flag when I asked for it…” and the destructive obstructionism the Republican Party/TEA Party as a body has waged against them in Congress.
The Republican Party Old Guard that still exists needs to understand this and figure out a way to use it to stop the nonsense. If the TEA Party wins and truly takes over the Republican Party, in truth becoming what is today only a joke in name (the TEA-Publican Party), it will collapse of its own stupidity. Any party that allows the House leadership to install into the Chairmanship of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology an anti-science extremist like Representative Ralph M. Hall, is bound to collapse eventually. But it can do a heck of a lot of damage while America awaits the crash.
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