While the President seems to be aggressively pursuing his agenda, the Republicans appear to be unsure of how they should proceed. They are aware that the election of 2012 was devastating to the Republican brand, but their analysis of just why they were beaten so badly is imprecise at best. The statements that came out of the Republicans’ meeting in Charlotte last week were contradictory and created no consensus on a clear path forward. Yet, the future of the Republicans as a consequential force in American governance and politics is dependent upon their ability to define themselves in a way that will be palatable to a significant and diverse portion of the American electorate.
One fact of the 2012 election is particularly telling. Eighty-nine percent of those who voted for the Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, were white. The demographic profile of America’s future electorate presents an enormous challenge to a party that has defined itself so narrowly by virtue of its very vocal extremists. The Republicans lost to the Democrats in every demographic group other than white. While the Republicans still control Congress, as a group, Democrats received more votes than Republicans. It is clear that their control of Congress is simply a result of the redistricting created by the Gerrymandering of 30 Republican controlled statehouses. As a result, 75% of the seats in Congress are considered safe. While on the face of it, holding on to this majority would seem impressive, it is only a perpetuation of the existing demographic dilemma confronted by the Republicans. The safe districts remain that way because they are homogeneously Republican and white. So, they will maintain control of the majority of the white minority. Control of Congress therefore creates a perception of power, yet the reality has become quite different.
The fact that both the “debt ceiling” issue and the “fiscal cliff” issue were approved by the House without regard to the Hastert Rule is the first indication that the extreme ideology of the Tea Party is beginning to lose its hold on the rest of the Republicans in the House. Their rhetoric continues to be destructive to their party and is finally being called out by some who see no future if changes don’t occur. The battle between those who represent the right of center and those who represent the far right is going to be bitter and will play itself out in the 2014 House contests in many of those “safe” districts. Those that show themselves to be too close to the center will be “primaried” by the far right. If the far right prevails, the future of the Party will be in great danger.
Many of the rising stars in the Republican Party such as, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio, are perceived by the far right to be too liberal. Yet they are the voices that can save the Party. It is important to our form of governance to have a strong Two-Party system. When one party is so weak that it can no longer serve as the “loyal opposition” our system may fail to represent all of the people. While ideologically and politically I am a Democrat, it is important to me that a strong and coherent Republican Party exists and serves the interests of its constituency. Let’s hope that they can get their act together and put the radical right back in the fringe where they belong.