I’ve been arguing for the last four years that the Republican party has created a major problem for itself by trying to ride the enthusiasm of the Tea Party movement to electoral success. It’s been a successful strategy, but it has brought the far-right fringe into the mainstream of the party and now the horse they’re trying to ride is bucking them off. Norm Ornstein has noticed the same thing.
The most interesting, and important, dynamic in American politics today is the existential struggle going on in the Republican Party between the establishment and the insurgents—or to be more accurate, between the hard-line bedrock conservatives (there are only trace elements of the old-line center-right bloc, much less moderates) and the radicals…
As for the party leaders, consider some of the things that are now part of the official Texas Republican Party platform, as highlighted by The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg:
That the Texas Legislature should “ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify” federal laws it doesn’t like. That when it comes to “unelected bureaucrats” (meaning, Hertzberg notes, almost the entire federal workforce), Congress should “defund and abolish these positions.” That all federal “enforcement activities” in Texas “must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.” (That would leave the FBI, air marshals, immigration officials, DEA personnel, and so on subordinate to the Texas versions of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.) That “the Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.”That the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank. That governments at all levels should “ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or ‘climate justice’ initiatives.” That “all adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine. That “no level of government shall regulate either the ownership or possession of firearms.” (Period, no exceptions.)
Texas, of course, may be an outlier. But the Maine Republican Party adopted a platform that called for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, called global warming a myth, and demanded an investigation of “collusion between government and industry” in perpetrating that myth. It also called for resistance to “efforts to create a one world government.” And the Benton County, Ark., Republican Party said in its newsletter, “The 2nd Amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives.”
One might argue that these quotes are highly selective—but they are only a tiny sampling (not a single one from Michele Bachmann, only one from Gohmert!). Importantly, almost none were countered by party officials or legislative leaders, nor were the individuals quoted reprimanded in any way. What used to be widely seen as loony is now broadly accepted or tolerated.
This is the dilemma that the GOP has found itself in for the last few years. A large portion of their base actually believes this stuff, which prevents them from being able to publicly counter the bullshit. But failure to do so means that everyone else views the Republican party as a bunch of bizarre extremists. The eye of the needle that needs to be threaded here could only be seen with an electron miscroscope.