Republican Impasse


The Republican Party wasn’t exactly shellacked in 2012, but it was certainly humbled. After losing the presidential bid, eight House seats, and two Senate seats, the party has decided to turn its focus inward. House GOP leadership met last weekend to discuss ways to get back on policy and back on brand.  Despite this, Speaker John Boehner still struggles to rein in the Tea Party fringes of his party. Meanwhile, his second in command, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, continues to build up his personal brand, positioning himself for a future bid to take over Boehner’s job.

Contrary to the establishment approach, Karl Rove, Republican strategist, serial Super PAC founder, and occasional mathematician, has taken a more direct approach to the intraparty insurgency. Rove is focusing on his Conservative Victory Project, a Super PAC that attempts to defeat extremist, far-right Republican challengers in primaries. The Republican Party in 2012 learned the hard way that changing demographics will prevent them from attaining the presidency through an extremist platform. It is time for the party to buckle down and focus on both jobs and fiscal conservatism—to not get bogged down by increasingly unpopular social positions.

Many Republican strategists feel that a new era of moderation has begun. But how did this extremism go mainstream? As Tom Edsall points out in his opinion piece for the New York Times, those looking for the source of extremism in the Republican Party need look no further than Karl Rove himself.  In the early 2000s, Rove capitalized on conservative paranoia over gay marriage and the War on Terror to turn out Evangelicals and right-wingers in droves. It wasn’t until extremist candidates like Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin became the norm that Karl Rove backpedaled and sought to course-correct.

Rove is busy focusing on repelling primary challenges from extremists, but the reality is that the problem will not go away by simply fielding strategically selected candidate. There are currently 49 members of the Tea Party Caucus in the House and Senate. Over the past decade, Republicans have hungrily elected ultraconservative candidates, and now they find themselves uncomfortably surrounded by fringe ideologues. Unless the current Republican Party is willing to become known for an entire generation of extremism, Rove and his fellow strategists must make the hard choice to purge the Party’s ranks of its most inflammatory members.

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1 Comment

  1. The REAL problem with the GOP is that they have become conservative in name only. It’s time for them to reread or read Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot” and right the ship.

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