The Republican Party appears to be on the brink. Fresh off the historical vote to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, the party is now embroiled in a battle to approve FEMA funds for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. This is a party in freefall and there is no telling how hard the landing will be when they touch ground.
This all began with the results of the 2012 election. The GOP lost ground in the House and the Senate, and of course, they lost the big prize, the White House. This resounding defeat began the soul searching and intellectual nervous breakdown that we continue to see today. Rather than re-grouping and refining their message and brand, half the party blamed the American people for being a bunch of takers, implying that they were un-American. Another faction attacked their own candidate’s tactics and strategies vying for attention and position like crabs trying to climb out of a barrel.
While some argued that it was a lack of diversity and a blind, unforgiving commitment to social conservatism that cost them the election, others argued that the party was not conservative enough. They wanted the party to move farther right. The party of Lincoln and Reagan forgot everything it had learned and dug in its heels, promising to be more single-minded and monolithic. That was manifested when they named an “ole white boys” club of congressmen to the chairperson position of every important committee.
The cracks in the wall had been seen by many outside the party, but this was a party too arrogant to accept that a good portion of the country does not support their vision. It began, and now may have ended, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. First, he gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. Rather than being an endorsement of the Romney-Ryan ticket, it was a self-promotion speech believed by many to be a signal that he was running for President. Christie added insult to injury when he thanked President Obama profusely for his support during Hurricane Sandy.
Now, we have House Speaker Boehner under fire by Christie and others for not addressing FEMA funds for the New York-New Jersey region. This is the second time that Boehner’s action has unintentionally led to bipartisan vitriol against the Republican leadership. The first was when he was unable to get House Republicans to agree on a debt deal. Failing, he punted to the Senate and asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to craft a bipartisan deal. Reid and McConnell sent a bill to the House that was eventually approved, but not before more cracks were found in the foundation. This time, Paul Ryan, the fiscal conservative, policy wonk, and standard-bearer for Republican economic policy, broke ranks and sided with Boehner, McConnell, and the Democrats.
The Grand Ole Party, the party of Lincoln, Teddy, and Reagan is in trouble. Their libertarian brothers do not trust them. The establishment and the Tea Party are waging a brutal internal war for control over the party platform. Their staunchest supporters, the Christian right, are so far removed from what is happening in America that their numbers are shrinking everywhere except in the areas of the country where they have their home base.
The party is rudderless, floundering and appearing desperate. They have no one to blame but themselves.