To put the Republican Party’s relationship with the Tea Party in Facebook terms, “It’s complicated.”
But the Tea Party may be ready to change its status to “Single.”
First Michigan’s Republican Party chairman faced a challenge from a Tea Party candidate that he only survived because Republican governor Rick Snyder flew home from Washington, DC to save him. Now the Republican chairman in Ohio is about to face a similar challenge as the tri-corner-hatted wing of the party aches to show its displeasure with Governor John Kasich.
For those of you who don’t live in the Midwest, you may not know that Snyder and Kasich have both implemented a far-right agenda that had the Koch brothers high-fiving so often that their butlers had to start doing it on their behalf.
Both tried to bust unions, both cut taxes for business and both shrank social services. As Scott Walker got the nation’s attention, they implemented like-minded policies. As a result, job growth in Michigan and Ohio has largely relied on President Obama’s wildly successful auto rescue, which renewed the region’s economy.
But the two governors face difficult re-elections in their states, which both went for Obama… twice. So both are trying to get their state legislatures to accept Medicaid expansion, the first policy either has pursued that would definitely create jobs (and save lives). But Michigan’s Tea Party legislators have rejected Snyder’s plan and Ohio is likely to do the same.
Both governors need to win statewide elections. Their state’s Tea Partiers, meanwhile, have been safely ensconced in gerrymandered districts they can only lose to someone who has a better Ronald Reagan tattoo.
And this is the Republican Party’s essential crisis. They’ve redistricted themselves into legislative majorities, yet they can’t win statewide and national elections unless they infuriate the extremists they’ve redrawn the map to protect.
So how do you keep a party torn between those needing to govern and those elected to prevent governing?
You stick to the easy stuff — like hating gays.
At a Republican National Committee meeting in Los Angeles on Friday, members unanimously voted to reaffirm its stand against same-sex marriage. The vote added to the language in the 2012 platform, urging the Supreme Court to “uphold the sanctity of marriage” in their rulings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Whose idea was it to make it super-clear that the GOP is still the party that wants government to be just small enough to fit between two consenting American adults who want to marry?
After that post, Agema never apologized or recanted. Instead, he went on to compare homosexuals to alcoholics who need treatment.
How did the RNC punish him? By completely validating his homophobia and re-sanctifying it in its platform.
Marriage equality is a losing issue for the GOP, but it’s a losing issue they’re stuck with. Rick Santorum is right to say it’s suicidal for his party to accept same-sex marriage. It would tear the party apart in an instant. And while the groups that support marriage equality are exactly those the GOP needs to win over to have a chance in the future, they’re already losing these voters. They can’t give up what they have for a future (which is the GOP’s problem in a nutshell).
Even on abortion, the party is showing its seams. Abortion extremists pushing absolute bans in states like North Dakota and Kansas have the rest of the party scared. That’s why you’re seeing Republicans — including party chairman Reince Priebus — focusing on “infanticide,” which is how they label incredibly rare late-term abortions.
By focusing on the horrors of these procedures, they get to ignore that a ban on all abortions — even in the cases of rape and incest — is only supported by about a tenth of the population. And bans and strict restrictions lead to women seeking unsafe, horrific procedures from unregulated charlatans.
By focusing on the few things that unite them — gays deserve to be alone and late-term abortions are horrible — they get to shift the focus from something they’re well aware of: Their party is coming apart.
At the same RNC meeting, the committee voted to keep “reforms” put in place by the Romney campaign that made it so difficult for Mitt to win the primary. These reforms are designed specifically to make it difficult for anyone with the last name of “Paul” to become president.
Ron Paul brought people into the GOP primaries who clearly aren’t Republicans. Their growing numbers could help Rand Paul be the GOP nominee in 2016. And apparently this terrifies the GOP.
Paul’s views are anti-governance and — even more terrifying to the GOP establishment — they’re also anti-military industrial complex, anti-aid to Israel, anti-Drug War. Though he’s as anti-abortion as any potential GOP nominee, he’s exactly the kind of candidate who could tear the GOP apart.
Of course, there are divisions in the Democratic Party, especially on the president’s “Chained CPI” proposal. But Democrats know that Republicans haven’t just voted for “Chained CPI” in the past, they’ve voted to privatize Social Security. Forming a third party would just make that more likely. In reality, Democrats under Obama have achieved the most significant broadening of the social safety net since LBJ.
This has created a crisis for the GOP. The party knows its extremism is costing them national elections and leading to significant policy losses. But is hate enough to keep them together?
Update: Alaska’s GOP chairperson was ousted Sunday by Tea Partiers aligned with Sarah Palin and Ron Paul.
AP Photo/CBS News, Chris Usher