Is this the end of the Republican Party? Is the Grand Old Party about to splinter?
Everybody knows the GOP faces a demographic problem. Namely, Hispanics are an increasingly large and influential group of voters, and they tend to vote Democratic — and in larger and larger percentages.
But in the wake of Mitt Romney’s devastating defeat, and his even more damaging “gifts” excuses for the defeat, the Republican factions are lashing out at him, and one another.
And it’s escalating.
Much of it, naturally is directed at Romney.
It’s understandable that party members want to distance themselves from the failed candidate. Nobody likes a loser. Politicians especially. They view losers like lead weights, ready to drag them down with them. Even more so when the loser is mouthing off that blacks, Latinos, and the young, were for sale. That they could be bought with government handouts, “gifts” as Romney called them. The implication being that we’re all so lazy, don’t want to work, and are so dependent on government “gifts” that will give our vote to the first person holding a welfare check with our name on it.
Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez shilled for Romney throughout the campaign. It was hard to find a gathering of more than three Latinos were Gutierrez wouldn’t show up singing the praises of the former Massachusetts governor with the pseudo-Mexican past.
Now, of course, it’s a different story. Sunday, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Gutierrez laid into the guy he was loving up so much just two weeks ago.
“I don’t know if he understood that he was saying something that was insulting,” he said.
Nice defense for his former pal — “bless his heart, he doesn’t mean to be a racist. He just doesn’t know any better.”
But that’s just Mitt bashing. Where it gets interesting is in the other stuff Gutierrez had to say. Because his criticism there went far beyond dissing a candidate in a dunce cap. What he added was evidence of the widening schism within the party, threatening to rend it apart.
“I was shocked. And frankly I don’t think that’s why Republicans lost the election,” Gutierrez said. “I think we lost the election because the far right of this party has taken the party to a place that it doesn’t belong.”
Well, heck. If only those folks on the far right were a bunch of yahoos that the rest of the GOP could dismiss easily. But they’re not. They are party stalwarts, leaders, and shining stars.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a staunch conservative Republicans like to trot out as the face of party inclusiveness because he’s a minority of Indian descent, took his turn bashing Romney over the gifts comment.
He called Romney’s comments “absolutely wrong.”
“We have got to stop dividing the American voters,” Jindal, who is taking over as the Republican Governors Association’s chairman, told reporters at the groups gathering in Las Vegas. “If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage, and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly. One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes. And second, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream, period.”
That was just for starters.
In an opinion piece he penned for CNN, Jindal wrote:
“In the aftermath of the presidential election, Republicans have been inundated with advice to moderate, equivocate, and even abandon their core principles as a necessary prerequisite for winning future elections.
“That is absurd. America already has one liberal political party; there is no need for another one.”
There it is. This is more than a tug-of-war. These are the opening salvos of something far more serious.
Gutierrez is a businessman, and a champion of their interests. And Romney certainly made defending businessmen, a.k.a. the wealthy, a fundamental, inviolable tenet of his campaign.
Which is why some of the other comments Jindal made in his CNN piece are further evidence that the GOP is not only soul-searching, but may be looking to toss some of the old flotsam overboard.
“Quit ‘big,’” he wrote. “We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive. We are the party whose ideas will help the middle class, and help more folks join the middle class. We are a populist party and need to make that clear.”
So where are we going with this? And how far will it go?
In many ways this is just the obvious extension of what the Tea Party began four years ago. Their ultraconservative, take no prisoners, make no concessions political style empowered the Michele Bachmanns, Allen Wests and Rick Santorums at the extreme right wing of the party. It even emboldened and elevated the fiscal conservatives like Paul
Ryan, and encouraged Republican members of the House and the Senate to confuse obstructionism with governing.
But this is going farther. This is a recognition that the divisions within the party are growing irreconcilable.
And if things continue this way, there may not be room for both of them in the party.
The old guard represents the old way. The new faces, Jindal, West, Bachmann and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (Yes, he won his seat because he was a tea party favorite, who just happens to be Hispanic.), represent a new direction. But even there there is division.
The conservative wing, the “far right” Gutierrez was complaining about, takes a strict hard line on immigration. It was their influence, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, that forced Republicans at the national convention to adopt anti-sanctuary, anti-amnesty, tougher border enforcement, and self-deportation as part of the party’s official
Rubio, for all his small government, fiscal conservativeness, has tried to get his fellows in the GOP to tone it down. And now, following the Election Day drubbing that denied the Republicans their much-coveted and highly anticipated control of the Senate, he’s not alone.
Fox News post Sean Hannity and House Speaker John Boehner are among a growing cadre within the party, who are suddenly saying — and without a hint of irony — immigration reform is an idea whose time has come.
How they’re going to get people like Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum or Iowa Republican Steve King, who has likened immigrants to dogs, to go along is hard to imagine.
So, the GOP faces what is easily the greatest challenge of its history, figuring out if a bad marriage is better than none at all. And, with the political reality of the United States changing around them, whether either way will save them.
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