Republican Party Splintering?

Is there a crack developing in the Republican block? Do I detect signs of it splintering?

The recent Republican primaries provide some fascinating insights into dissent within the Republican ranks. The Tea Party was greatly emboldened when their relatively unknown candidate defeated the high-profile “establishment” candidate, Eric Cantor, in the recent Virginia primary. Then this week the Tea party was sent reeling by the come-from-behind win of the establishment candidate Thad Cochran over the anointed Tea Party candidate in Mississippi.

mcdanielIn his rousing non-concession speech, Chris McDaniel distanced himself from the current Republican Party, saying.

The party I was born with, the party I joined when I was 13 years old, was the party of a former actor from California named Ronald Reagan. … That’s the party I joined. That’s the party I’ve always been a part of.

He then went on to say about the majority who voted for his establishment opponent, “This is not the party of Reagan,” and added,

there are millions of people who feel like strangers in their own party.”

His words express the sentiment of many.

The animosity between Tea Party/Libertarian Republicans and mainstream conservative (or “establishment”) Republicans has been growing throughout the primary season. The Center for Public Integrity documented that in the first two months of this year

conservative groups spent more than $2.3 million on negative ads targeting Republican candidates.

And it adds,

That’s more than the $2.1 million conservative groups spent overtly advocating against the election of Democratic candidates.

Meanwhile, they report, liberal political groups didn’t spend a dime opposing Democratic candidates.

The struggle for dominance in (and thus control of) the Republican Party seems to have come down to a battle between the purists and the pragmatists. As McDaniel complained in denouncing the establishment element within his party,

So much for principle. I guess they can take some consolation in the fact that they did something tonight, by once again compromising, by once again reaching across the aisle, by once again abandoning the conservative movement.

The basic problem with ideological purists is that they treat compromise as a moral evil. One cannot trust or work with those who view compromise as a pragmatic necessity. To reach across the aisle is to abandon one’s purist convictions. One is either with you or against you – an ally or an opponent.

As disagreement with the establishment wing of the Republican Party intensifies, some of the purists feel they have no choice but to renounce their ties with this reprobate majority. Talk of third party candidacies in the Fall 2014 elections continues to surface.

palinThis week Sarah Palin appeared on Hannity and suggested that she might consider joining a third party saying,

If Republicans are going to act like Democrats, then what’s the use in getting all gung ho about getting in there? [that is, getting them elected to Congress].

When far-right conservatives feel they cannot support establishment conservatives – or decide to openly campaign against them – it spells trouble for the Republican Party as a whole. A fragmented party filled with rancorous infighting will be in a poor position to defeat the Democratic candidates in the upcoming election.

 

Photo credit: AP

About politspectator
Edward Clayton grew up in the US but has lived in Canada for the last 4 decades. He is a long time peace activist and committed to issues of social justice and good government. He reports on Canadian, American, and global politics from a Canadian perspective.

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