The Republican Party fights ... with itself

Intra-party squabbling among conservatives – especially with Tea Partiers thrown into the mix – is not good news for the GOP. They're beginning to act like Democrats.

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma/File
Tamara Schirrmacher dresses up as The Statue of Liberty as she holds chains that she says represents the national debt during a Tax Day Tea Party in Pleasanton, Calif., Wednesday, April 15, 2009. In mock congressional elections, generic Tea Party candidate do better than Republicans.

On Capitol Hill these days, the Republican Party seems to be solidly (if stolidly) united.

Responses to Democratic or Obama administration proposals range from “No,” to “no way,” “uh-uh,” and “you’ve got to be kidding us.” Unless it’s about sending thousands more American troops to war.

But outside the Washington beltway, things are not so copacetic for the GOP – particularly among the conservative base.

A Rasmussen Poll this past week shows Republicans leading Democrats in a generic congressional ballot (43-39 percent). But throw in a “Tea Party” candidate, and things take a definite turn away from the party of Lincoln. In a generic three-way congressional race, the results are: 36 percent for the Democrat, 23 percent for the Tea Partier, and just 18 percent for the Republican (with 22 percent undecided).

Writing at, Andy Barr notes that Tea Party groups are springing up like mushrooms around the country.

Even though there’s no national organization and some groups are competing for support, Barr writes, “The tea party brand is strong enough that a number of conservative candidates, including Republican California Senate hopeful Chuck DeVore, have tried to adopt the movement’s message.”

Some Republican National Committee conservatives have been pushing for a ten-point purity test that candidates must meet in order to represent the party at the polls.

“We’re becoming a church that would rather chase away heretics than welcome converts and that’s no way to become a majority party,” former Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who served as National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, told Politico. “This makes no sense for those of us who are interested in winning elections.”

Meanwhile, the voice of political conservatism – that would be broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, not RNC chair Michael Steele – has been nagging Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Ky. for not fighting hard enough to block Democrats’ healthcare reform proposals.

“The Senate Republican leadership strategy here was flawed because it allowed the Democrats to take the offensive, buy time to work out a deal,” Limbaugh said the other day. “I know a disaster when I see it. And I know that it’s gotta be stopped, and whatever parliamentary steps are available to people … should have been taken.”

Writing in The Hill newspaper, Alexander Bolton points out that “the Gun Owners of America went even further, blasting McConnell in an e-mail sent to members in Kentucky, noting previous times McConnell failed to stop legislation and accusing the GOP leader of helping Democrats advance the ‘ObamaCare legislation’.”

Down in Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is running for the US Senate. Here’s what his main opponent has to say about him: “Charlie Crist will need to spend every last cent trying to convince voters that his support for wasteful stimulus spending, cap-and-trade schemes, tax increases and liberal judges are acceptable Republican practices.”

That’s former state House Speaker Marco Rubio lambasting his fellow Republican, in what sounds a lot like that recent special congressional election in upstate New York where a conservative third party candidate in effect helped elect the first Democrat in the district in more than a century. So far, Rubio has the backing of the conservative anti-tax outfit Club for Growth and the socially conservative Family Research Council.

Taking the broader view, University of Virginia history professor Jennifer Burns notes the resurgence of interest in the works of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand. In a recent Monitor op-ed, Dr. Burns, author of “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,” notes that “her ubiquity should tell us that tectonic plates are shifting under the surface of American politics.”

And of course no discussion of intra-party squabbling is complete without remembering what Will Rogers said in describing himself as a Democrat: “Not a member of any organized political party.”

Writing in the Monitor this past week, congressional correspondent Gail Russell Chaddock observes that Democrats won congressional seats in 2006 and 2008 by recruiting candidates who could win in conservative districts.

“The ‘majority makers,’ as Speaker Nancy Pelosi dubbed them, fit the moderate-to-conservative districts they aimed to win,” Chaddock writes. “They railed on big government, spending, and taxes. Some challenged the merits of government regulation, called for more limits on abortion rights, opposed any softening of illegal immigration policy, or appeared in photos toting rifles. Now, with legacy bills for Democrats on the line, many are voting that way. On issues ranging from healthcare and climate change to social issues, the ‘majority makers’ often find themselves challenging the very majority they helped to create.”


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