It was interesting. I typed “Demise of the GOP” into my search engine and, lo and behold, I found articles written by the usual suspects, The Huffington Post and The New York Times as well as the conservative Atlantic and The Washington Times.
These were not repeats of a news release from The Associated Press or Scripps Howard but independent commentaries by those who know the Washington scene much better than you and I.
The problem is all of these predictions of the death of the conservative political steward might be quite premature. In fact, we heard the same predictions in the late 1960s up through the 1992 election of Bill Clinton. The Democratic Party was on the brink of collapse because of fracturing within the party.
My own prediction is that the Republican Party will remain, but the neo-conservative tea party movement will play the part of abrasive divider as a third party. And with the Republicans’ approval rating heading toward zero, it will be the Democrats who will rise to the top.
But what about our state legislature? With Missouri’s Republicans dominating the House and Senate, will we see a blow back under the gray dome? My crystal ball says give the odds to the Dems, although I do not think they will see a majority in either chamber in 2015.
The Democrats have taken a few pages from the GOP successes and have united under a single banner. OK, there are the outliers who believe, and rightfully so, that the progressive wing of the party is being ignored, but even they generally are in lockstep with the mainstream. It is true that American politics have been moving to the right since the Reagan administration, but that does not deny the liberal and progressive voices. At least they are not screaming, “Look at me!”
Though voters’ memory are short and we are still a bit more than a year from the 2014 midterm elections, it appears that the tea party activists will take every opportunity to remind the American people that "Obamacare" is a failure. That activists like Sen. Ted Cruz are heroes to their cause and are pushed into the limelight for all to see. The problem is that we are also hearing their sometimes confused voices.
Last week on his third trip to Iowa, Sen. Ted Cruz was met with an underwhelming reception from the prominent members of the Iowa GOP. If he were a true hero, I would have expected two minutes of applause from the constituents. Cruz received less than 40 seconds.
The dimming of Cruz’s spotlight is something that those in the majority in Jefferson City need to be aware of. Noise is already being made by state leaders that they will not discuss the expansion of Medicare, leaving hundreds, if not thousands, of Missourians with less-than-affordable health care. But denying health care to those who need it most might prove to be the demise of the GOP as we have known it.
Yet, this fracture in the GOP is not as simple as getting some centrists and right-wing right-wingers together in a conference room. The extremists not only want their say but also will whine, scream and generally throw a tantrum to get their way. We are seeing it today with tea party favorites calling Republicans who voted to end the partial government shutdown “liberals,” as if that word ought to be censored by the FCC.
Our founders did not perceive a two-party political system. If they had, it would have been written into the Constitution. However, factions did exist, and by the election of 1800, the system as we know it took its first breaths with the party of Jefferson supporting state’s rights and that of Adams supporting a strong federal government. We have also witnessed a reversal in political leanings of the parties of Jefferson and of Lincoln, starting with FDR. I believe we will see a similar change as the pendulum hits its apex and starts its slow return to the center-left.
Missouri is not alone. Infighting among the GOP can be found in Georgia, Alabama, and Alaska. Even Texas is not immune from the fray.
Regardless of the voters' long-term memory (or lack thereof) or the success (or failure) of the Affordable Care Act, unless the mainstream Republicans can control their tea party faction, a third party will come along affecting national and state legislatures alike. Then we might have to capitalize “Tea Party.”
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.