President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night, giving him an opportunity to share his vision for the future and plans to lead in his second term.
It is a standard practice for the opposite party to give a response to the president’s speech, but the GOP is a house divided and the division is growing wider everyday. The GOP will deliver two separate responses to the SOTU address. The civil war in the GOP is underway and it is clear that by choosing to deliver competing responses to the SOTU it is not going to be resolved anytime soon.
The GOP was once a party known for its discipline and solidarity. They were ruled by the GOP eleventh commandment — “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” — but that commandment has been thrown aside as the party wages a very public civil war for control.
For the third year in a row, two Republicans have been selected to give the GOP response to the SOTU address. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will give the “official” GOP response and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will give the Tea Party Express response. This unusual practice started in 2011.
After the Tea Party helped usher in a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, they began exercising their power in the party. The Tea Party Express tapped Michele Bachmann to give a response that was televised to the nation. Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer explained “The Republican Party doesn’t represent everybody in the Tea Party movement, and they certainly don’t speak for us.”
Kremer’s comment highlights the rift in the GOP. Recently Karl Rove a key republican power broker announced that he was forming an organization to ensure that only “electable” candidates would be placed on ballots throughout the country. The Conservative Victory Project is an offshoot of Rove’s American Crossroads PAC and was formed to “vet prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.”
Rove chose to announce the formation of the group in the NY Times. The Times reported that “the Conservative Victory Project is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles.” The Times explained that some of the biggest donors in the Republican Party were concerned that “far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts” had broken down the discipline that the Republican Party is known for and jeopardized the GOP effort to gain control of the Senate.
Non-establishment conservatives did not take kindly to Rove’s announcement. David N. Bossie, president of the conservative group Citizens United wrote, “The battle lines are finally drawn, and conservatives should look at the New York Times article as our Lexington and Concord. Bossie described Rove and his supporters as a cabal looking to “cull the conservative movement” and “sell out on any issue if it means more power in the short-term.”
Now the debate is whether Rove and his group are true conservatives. Brent Bozell, founder of the conservative Media Research Center, suggested in an interview that the Conservative Victory Project amounted to a bunch of “fake conservatives.” Bozell said Rove and his moderate establishment conservatives are “shameless.”
For his part, Rove tried to squelch any notion of a civil war in the party by explaining, “the question is not tea party or not. It’s a question of whether they are a bad candidate or not.”
Rove pointed out that his organization has contributed largely on behalf of Tea Party candidates. Jonathan Collegio, a Rove associate, claimed that Rove and his group supported Tea Party candidates like Senators Rand Paul (R–Ky.), Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R–Texas), but Bozell pointed out that the claim is only half true. Rove and his group only supported these candidates after their preferred candidates were defeated. Bozell was quick to point out that all of Rove’s candidates were defeated in the last election.
Steve Deace, a conservative Iowa radio host, observed, “We are at a point now where you are almost better off in a Republican Party being endorsed by Barack Obama than Karl Rove. He is the reverse Midas ... Nobody snatches defeat from the jaws of victory like the Republican Party establishment.”
Those are certainly fighting words and they reflect the internal strife within the GOP.
Deace disagrees with Paul, attesting, "There is now an out-in-the-open civil war within the Republican Party, and most of the grassroots patriots I talk to are just fine with that."