The GOP has always had a strange way of uniting around their chosen candidates. For all the fodder being thrown around in conservative circles about Romney, the fact is that most of those people are just blowing smoke and will end up voting for him as a way to try and unseat Obama. But with the rise of Tea Party, and a new movement toward Conservative Puritanism, having an "R" next to your name doesn't cut it anymore. And the infighting is starting to go public.
As the conventions loom closer, and the presidential primaries wind down, Republican support for local candidates is starting to turn into a game of "Tea Party Roulette" in which the most conservative candidate is deified while the rest are attacked for being "moderates." It's gotten so bad that, in at least one case, the battle is between two conservatives arguing over who is more of an islamophobe.
And since when has being a moderate been the same as being a liberal democrat? Well, since the neo-conservatives started swallowing up the GOP, that's when. It's not enough for a Republican to be against raising taxes (in the link above, it points out Frank Gaffney, who accused Grover Norquist, of all people, of being allied with the Muslim Brotherhood). It's not enough for a Republican to want to slash regulations or stop abortion, close the borders and give more money to businesses. That gets you to the ball park. To get to the plate, you have to be willing to be a little bit crazy for your convictions. Consider this story, which points to the growing infighting among conservatives leading up to the general elections. A particularly great quote from this article sums up just how insane one has to be to survive in the current conservative climate:
"So far this year, conservative challengers in Texas have unseated three state House committee chairmen who were accused by tea party adherents of cooperating with Democrats on legislation."
What? Really? So, rather than supporting cooperation between the parties, the new Republicans will shun any member who tries to work with the Left to get something, anything, accomplished? What is wrong with this picture? For more than two hundred years, our society has flourished due to compromise between the political powers that be. Now, all of a sudden, one of those political powers is throwing their own people under the bus for the ridiculous affront of negotiation.
So, why is this happening? Well, you could argue that there has been a major shift to the Right in the past several years, aided by a combination of factors. Another issue, of course, is that the presumptive GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, is himself a divisive figure for the Right. Those who are more "moderate" in their Republicanism seem to like Romney, and have the majority of the votes in the GOP. The more fundamentalist conservatives hate him, and that divide is, I think, continuing to fuel the disruption in the party as we move closer to the convention. And while Romney has had his share of gaffes, mostly during his European tour, he's still the presumptive nominee, and will likely end up getting the support of most conservatives on election day.
And the media? Well, they haven't really noticed much in the last ten years. They care more about money from advertisers and avoiding public criticism than stating the obvious trends in politics. Their handling of coverage over voter ID laws is particularly shameful, but it's all about the bottom line. So, as long as our primary information sources are unwilling to step outside the box of political correctness and start talking facts, there's not a snowball's chance in hell of changing things or keeping people informed.
The winds of change are blowing for the GOP, and they are blowing to the Right. As the party becomes more entrenched in the fringe doctrine held by the most conservative of US citizens, and as they push out more moderate representatives, I believe two things could happen. First, we may see the rise of a new, "middle ground" party that is really just the discarded remnants that used to be the GOP of the mid-90's (think Newt Gingrich), while the conservatives continue their spiral into extremist obscurity (think Ron Paul). The other thing that could happen is the entirety of the GOP gives in to the conservative base and starts pushing for extreme policies en masse. Doing this will mean the collapse of the GOP, since extreme policy in one direction or the other tends to turn off those all-important undecided voters. Either way, the Republican party is going to go through some major growing pains. They are redefining themselves as a vastly more conservative and much more vindictive party than they have been in the past. It will be an interesting, but potentially harmful, process to watch. Let's hope we can keep enough voices in Congress to prevent the new conservatives from taking over our government completely. Let's hope.