Let the Republican civil war begin

by Russell's Rants

Originally published November 7, 2012

As I write this article, an open revolt has broken out on the set of Fox News. Following every other network, the election desk at Fox News has called Ohio – and thus the presidency – for Barack Obama. But Karl Rove is asking for a recount – on air! His obstinacy is emblematic of the modern Republican Party: immune to facts, contemptuous of science and oblivious to reality.

27db6b1dc8f72a7286323acafd44f806From climate change, to evolution to basic macroeconomic theory, the Tea Party Know Nothings have hijacked what used to be the Party of Lincoln. They have cost the Republican Party 5 senate seats over the last 2 election cycles (Missouri, Indiana, Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada) and, therefore, control of the Senate. And they have cost the Republicans its credibility on sound public policy.

George F. Will, on ABC News, pointed out the obvious: that the Republican Party needs to come to terms with the changing demographics of the country, which are trending against it – especially the Latino vote that is only increasing and broke in favor of the President big time: at over 70%. If the national Republican Party keeps up its anti-immigrant, xenophobic mindset and policy prescription, it will go the way of the California Republican Party: namely, permanent minority status. Ditto on gender equity – and reproductive freedom. Ditto on gay equality.

The folks on Fox News are predicting that nothing will change in the next term, since the Republicans still control the House, and if anything, the Congress has become more polarized – with the replacement of Northeastern moderate Republicans with liberal Democrats in the Senate and a gaggle of Tea Partiers winning seats in the House.

They are wrong.

The Tea Party is not founded upon American principles. At best, it harkens back to the anti-Federalists that lost the battle against adoption of the U.S. Constitution. At worst, it represents the zealots of the French and communist revolutions that believe in overthrow and radicalism – or in their case, reactionary politics. Let us hope that in ending the Great Recession, President Obama has lanced the boil from which the Tea Party sprang.

In the end, the American system of government as devised by James Madison and enshrined in the Constitution will prevail and defeat the negativity of the Tea Party. In Federalist No. 10, Madison was mostly concerned with the Tyranny of the Majority. And for a while, I thought Madison may have missed the problem posed by the Tea Party: the Tyranny of the Minority, the crazy rabid minority. But he didn’t – because he knew that while checks-and-balances may require consensus governance that can be slow and frustratingly methodical, he also knew that the will of the People cannot be stymied for long. Majority rule is in our DNA. We vote for student government in high school. We vote for city council at the local level. And we expect our national leaders to rule in the interest of the broad majority.

The members of the Republican Party have a choice going forward. There is a huge opening for a return to the center. We used to call them Rockefeller Republicans – but they could be called Colin Powell Republicans, or Dick Riordan Republicans. In other words, Republicans that honor public service and respect the positive role of practical government. But in order to return to the center, the Republican Party must purge itself of the malignancy of the right wing which has attached itself to the party’s core.

President Obama is now in the strongest position of any Democrat since the onset of anti-government fanaticism under Reagan to reestablish the credibility of sensible, federal governance. It starts with striking a balanced Grand Bargain on debt and taxes during the lame duck session of Congress, which the Republicans denied him last term because of the intransigence of you-know-who. It continues next term with centrist, practical, non-ideological legislation on immigration, climate change, income inequality, education and the like.

The Tea Party will be relegated to the dust bin of history, and the question for the Republican Party is whether it wishes to follow suit.