It's been quite fascinating to watch the ongoing GOP civil war. After a general election where President Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, 93 percent of the African-American vote, 73 percent of the Asian American vote and 77 percent of the gay vote (which, according to The New York Times, turned out to be critical to his success) it seems that the stark political lessons of 2012 have not been learned by the losing party.
Instead of organizing an effective national response, the GOP has instead organized a circular firing squad.
That’s why the escalating tensions between establishment conservatives and the Tea Party fringe long ago tumbled out into the open, with the latter group grousing that they have been continually betrayed by their own party in Washington.
The anger and frustration are real because what’s at stake for the diehards could hardly be more consequential. They are fighting for nothing less than their own vaunted vision for the nation and rejecting all attempts and mediation or course change.
The nation has one path, one future. The slightest deviation is an impermissible error.
It does not matter that, in their near religious zeal to defund Obamacare, Tea Party leaders pursued a disastrous government shutdown, leading to some of the Republican Party’s worst approval ratings in public polling history.
For the diehards this isn’t simply about politics. It’s really about much more than that.
It’s an ideological and spiritual battle for the soul of the nation. That’s why it’s so interesting that this civil war often divides so neatly between north and south.
Southern conservatives looked askance at Mitt Romney, giving him only 31 percent of the vote in Florida. As polarization goes, that was major.
But it got worse. During the so-called fiscal-cliff talks the long brewing internal civil war finally burst out into the open.
But the thing that fascinates me is their continuing inability to diversify when it has become so apparent it’s their only hope.
The year 2012 was a nightmare for the party’s diversity efforts. The number of African-American Republicans in Congress was halved, in the Senate the number of female Republican senators declined by one (there are now only four GOP women in the Senate).
Instead of getting smart the GOP has gotten angry.
Watching the Obama administration enact its signature reforms has been utterly enraging for the diehards. From introducing what they call an immigration amnesty bill, to funding for Obamacare, to the debt ceiling talks, to feverishly imagined assaults on the Constitution and Second Amendment, it’s been a catalog of conservative horrors.
There was a time when they could predict how the movie ends, but it seems American society has changed to the point that its become unrecognizable to them. That’s thrown them completely off their game, with increasingly disastrous results for the party.
Consider that 50,000 Hispanics are turning 18 every month. What is the GOP going to do about that?
Well, it looks like they are finally contemplating the (for them) poisoned chalice of immigration reform. But as for the community outreach? They still don’t share much in common.
When the GOP look out – which they are increasingly disinclined to do – they see an America they don’t want to be a part of. They talk about what is wrong with the nation.
They suggest fixes that would take us back to the past, not the future. They stand in opposition and say what they are against, they have much less to say concerning what they are for.
If you believe, as millions of Tea Party supporters ardently do, that the life of the republic is in serious danger you’re much less likely to entertain compromise. That’s where the Tea Party has led the GOP. Into a militarized bunker, because they feel their very lives are at stake.
Talk radio hucksters and cable news blowhards have led them there, after their decades-long narratives of attack and crisis took root.
The diehards believe we are variously on the edge of the zombie apocalypse, the rapture, the flood, the end times, the coming of the anti-Christ, global socialism, global intifada, and on and on. This level of paranoia and hyper-vigilance is showing no signs of abating.
Until it does the GOP has no chance of convincing the anxious nation they’re serious about governance.