Friday, February 15, 2013

Republican Armageddon-- 2016


In the National Journal Ron Fournier reported on interviews he's done recently with Republican Party leaders and operatives who are worried that their party is going to split in two. It would make sense because the Republican Party has always been two distinct, often mutually hostile, entities with little holding them together beyond a thirst for power. On the one hand we have the long-dominant and traditional Greed and Selfishness wing of the party. And on the other, the foot soldiers from the Fox-brainwashed masses, the Hatred and Bigotry wing. The Greed and Selfishness wing can't exactly run on a platform that emphasizes conserving the wealth of the top 2 or 3-- or even 5-- percent of the population while obliterating the American dream of social mobility so they've always turned to ultra-nationalism, racism, misogyny, bigotry, homophobia and whatever they can find to rally poorly educated and ignorant voters and make them forget their own economic interests. Watch these quick-take interviews with quintessential members of the Republican Party base:

The folks who spoke with Fournier are nothing like the ones in the Mississippi GOP base interviewed in the video. His contacts are all wealthy or working for the wealthy, "hunkered," as he says, "at the tables of see-and-be-seen Washington restaurants." An entirely different world-- which speaks volumes as to why this split may well be coming this time. It's long overdue. Fournier says that to his contacts, "the GOP apocalypse looms larger than most realize. Dueling State of the Union rebuttals and Karl Rove’s assault on right-wing candidates are mere symptoms of an existential crisis that is giving the sturdiest Republicans heartburn."

Between bites of an $18.95 SteakBurger at the Palm, one of Washington’s premier expense-account restaurants, Republican consultant Scott Reed summed up the state of politics and his beloved GOP. “The party,” he told me, “is irrelevant.”

He cited the familiar litany of problems: demographic change, poor candidates, ideological rigidity, deplorable approval ratings, and a rift between social and economic conservatives.

“It’s leading to some type of crash and reassessment and change,” said Reed, who ran Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign and remains an influential lobbyist and operative. “It can’t continue on this path.”

Reed sketched a hypothetical scenario under which Paul runs for the Republican nomination in 2016, loses after solid showings in Iowa and other states run by supporters of his father (former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul), bolts the GOP, and mounts a third-party bid that undercuts the Republican nominee.

Paul, a tea-party favorite who was elected to the Senate in 2010, told USA Today on Wednesday that he was interested in running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. "I do want to be part of the national debate," he said.

What are the odds of Paul or another GOP defector splitting the party? Reed asked me to repeat the question-- and then grimaced. “There’s a real chance,” he replied.

The next morning, Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin dipped his spoon into a bowl of strawberries, sugar, and pink milk-- and declared the era of two major parties just about over. “I think we’re at the precipice of a breakdown of the two-party system,” said the Wisconsin Republican.

Voters are tired of partisan rancor and institutional incompetence, Ribble said, pointing to polls that suggest the number of independent voters is rising.

“Ross Perot was a goofy guy,” he said of the deficit hawk who mounted two independent presidential bids in the 1990s. “If he was packaged as a different guy and had the Internet, he would have emerged [as president]. The warning bell he was sounded then is getting louder today.”

Ribble represents one of the few House districts still divided almost equally between Republican and Democratic voters. Many of the rest are gerrymandered, drawn to easily elect a conservative Republican or liberal Democrat. It's one cause of gridlock, what voters loathe about Washington. “I think over a period of time we could watch third and even fourth parties emerging,” Ribble said.
Ribble, a former pastor turned politician, is a lock-step party line voter who sticks with Boehner and Cantor. In the 113th Congress, his ProgressivePunch score on crucial roll calls in exactly zero, unlike mainstream Wisconsin conservatives Tom Petri and Jim Sensenbrenner but in line with the more dogmatic, radical members of the state delegation, Paul Ryan and Sean Duffy, also with scores of zero. Unless Steve Israel again tries forcing a corporate-friendly, conservative Democrat onto WI-08 voters, Ribble, who only works to shore up his right wing base and never bothers appealing to mainstream voters, could be in for trouble.

While Fournier's story only deals with the impact of the Republican civil war on the presidential race, a rending of the party would be devastating in congressional races as well. It may not matter to the reelection prospects of Richard Shelby (R-AL), Mike Lee (R-UT), David Vitter (R-LA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Jerry Moran (R-KS) or Mike Crapo (R-ID), in states effectively without functioning Democratic parties, but a serious GOP civil war could easily doom reelection chances for shaky incumbents like Ron Johnson (R-WI), Richard Burr (R-NC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dan Coats (R-IN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and whomever the GOP nominates for McCain's seat. And, remember, likely presidential wannabes Marco Rubio, John Thune and Rand Paul are all up for reelection in 2016 as well. So imagine, Hillary Clinton leading the Democrats while a mainstream Greed and Selfishness Republican and an extremist Hatred and Bigotry Republican tear each other to pieces in a fratricidal war to the death. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch!

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At 11:15 AM, Blogger John said...

The tragedy is that the best we can expect out of this scenario is Hillary Clinton.

At 2:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The tragedy is that the best we can expect out of this scenario is Hillary Clinton."

I couldn't agree more.

Besides, there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, as my dad used to say. Hillary is no spring chicken, and I'm less than enthusiastic about any candidate nearing 70. It takes a lot of optimism and wishful thinking to believe that Hillary herself is totally committed to the hardest slog in politics. And I say that as someone nearly her age.

I think it would be wise if Democrats stopped talking and acting as if a Hillary candidacy is a done deal and started looking to identify and groom a deeper bench of heavy hitters -- or reasonable alternatives, at least.


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