I started to write this as an update to the last post, but then decided it deserved its own post. Anyway, responding to a news headline about a split in the Republican Party, Michael Stickings argues that there is no split:
Powell and Ridge, along with McCain and other such renegades, will continue to garner the headlines, but, again, the Republican Party is Limbaugh’s party, the party of the right-wing base and its leadership both in Congress and elsewhere. There are moderate Republicans, to be sure, but they are now a decided minority in a party that has been shifting ever further rightward in recent years, notably in defeat after the ’06 and ’08 elections.
This is true, but I think this shows us the “split” already occurred. I would argue that the real split was in the 1970s, when the Goldwater/Reagan wing of the party ascended and began the process of casting out Rockefeller Republicans and more moderate Ford/Nixon Republicans.
There has been a hard, take-no-prisoners right wing in the GOP for a long time. I’ve read that when Dwight Eisenhower was nominated in 1952, conservatives at the convention (who supported Robert Taft Jr.) were so angry they spat on Eisenhower delegates. At the 1964 convention they booed Nelson Rockefeller off the podium and put nausea-producing drugs into the drinks of Rockefeller delegates. But until the late 1970s the whackjobs were the party fringe. Since taking over the party they have demanded absolute loyalty to their leaders and ideas — well, talking points, anyway — and demonized any faction of the party that didn’t march in step.
So the split is a fait accompli, the few lingering moderates notwithstanding. But now that their “ideas” have been found wanting, and most of the public is thoroughly sick of them and their bullying, fear-mongering brand of politics, the GOP has been so purged of any alternative factions that there are not enough contemporary Rockefeller or Eisenhower or even Nixon Republicans to step up and take over.
There’s an interesting example of what’s happened at the right-wing site American Power. The blogger writes of Colin Powell’s call for the party to be more inclusive — “his own personal history belies the notion that the GOP lacks inclusion or fails to provide opportunities for qualified minorities.” But then he adds, “Actually, it’s something of a shame for him to be getting into these debates at this point.” But he doesn’t say why it’s a shame. And then the commenters come along and say “Powell is irrelevant to Republicans and conservatives”: “I never understood the fuss about him”; “Colin Powell has no business in the Republican Party”; and “Colin Powell is a media whore.” So much for inclusion.
What the hard Right still has are the think tanks and media outlets, and they still have the big money from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Koch Family foundations, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Scaife Family foundations and the Adolph Coors Foundation to underwrite the think tanks and media outlets and countless astroturf organizations. This will keep the current GOP alive, no matter if 99 percent of the voters turn against them and their regional clout shrinks to Mississippi.
If we assume that there will be two major parties, in the foreseeable future I don’t see a conservative-to-moderate-and-not-insane party rising up and taking over the niche the GOP used to fill. As many of you pointed out in comments recently, the conservative-to-moderate-and-not-insane politicians are Democrats now, albeit of the Blue Dog sort.
But let’s think about the more distant future. If there is to be a conservative-to-moderate political party that will organize to challenge the Dems, will that be a revitalized GOP, or will that be a new party? I think it could go either way, but it might actually be easier to form a whole new conservative-moderate party than to re-take the GOP from the crazies.
I’m guessing that if the Republicans have another losing election in 2010 — and I’m not making predictions, but right now that seems a good bet — surely a lot of the money currently propping up the GOP will move elsewhere. A whole new conservative party that doesn’t suffer from association with Bush/Gingrich/Limbaugh would be much more palatable to a broader swatch of voters, IMO, and might even siphon off the Blue Dogs from the Dems. Maybe they’ll even call themselves New Whigs.
Also — it’s Memorial Day. Here are some old Memorial Day posts from the Mahablog archives: