Joe Gandelman: The Republican race for non-compassionate conservatism
Will the Republican Party’s 2012 national rout have an impact? Will it become more a moderate (excuse the “dirty” word) conservative party that tries to inch back to George W. Bush’s stated goal of a more “compassionate conservatism” that would appeal to growing, Democratic-inclined demographics? As Tony Soprano said: “Fuhgeddaboudit!”
Amid signs of looming Republican political civil war between purity-demanding conservative activists and a political establishment that seeks to enlarge the party’s current perceived “MEMBERS ONLY” tent, there seems to be a race among Republicans to prove who has the least empathy and who will be tougher, no matter what the consequences (to groups that don’t vote overwhelming Republican).
Ronald Reagan’s smiling “Shining City On the Hill” has been replaced by a scowling “You Give Us What We Want or We’ll Level that Hill.”
Sen. Lindsay Graham blasts President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel as an “in your face nomination,” but the reality is this: to millions of Americans, today’s Republican Party has become the 24/7 “in-your-face” political party.
Many American independents, centrists, moderates and 20th century style conservatives are now in a state of near political grief. They sadly watch as a party that offered substantive alternatives to govern is morphing into a political party seemingly in a state of perpetual filibuster, seeking ways to provoke political brinksmanship, looking for ways to confront — while appearing to kowtow to its most ideologically intolerant rightward faction and polarizing conservative talk show hosts.
A government shutdown? Give us what we want, or it’s about time we had another one (forget about the chaos it’d mean to not just the government but government services, funding and to millions of Americans). Default on the debt limit? Slash spending the way we want or those bills won’t be paid — and it won’t be as bad as you “libruls” think and might even help the country (forget about the wide variety of experts, including conservative economists, who predict it’d be catastrophic to the American and world economies).
The problem for the GOP is that its courage-challenged politicians won’t stand up to the Tea Party, so the soggy tea bag is waving the elephant. According to Rasmussen, only 8 percent of voters now say they are members of the Tea Party, down from a high of 24 percent in April 2010. The Tea Party now has a limp 30 percent favorable rating and an unhealthy 45 percent unfavorable rating.
Some traditional conservatives are increasingly alarmed by the nihilistic tone of their party and they’re speaking out. For instance, conservative blogger Doug Mataconis writes that his party now offers two choices: “Either the nation moves in the direction that those who advocate it want it to, or it burns. There’s no room for compromise, no room for debate other than on the terms already set. This is not the philosophy of a party that wants to govern, and it’s not the philosophy of a party that is going to last for an extended period of time in its present form. It is, in the end, a philosophy of anarchism in which one really doesn’t care what happens.”
Hint to the GOP: If politics ain’t bean ball, the debt ceiling ain’t the fiscal cliff. It’s the fiscal Grand Canyon. The debt ceiling is where craven political gamesmanship and blatant partisan power-plays can shove the United States and the world into a major financial setback.
If that happens, then in future national elections all of Rush Limbaugh’s listeners and all of the Tea Party’s activists won’t be able put the tea-guzzling Elephant Dumpty back together again.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.