There was a time when the positions held by today’s GOP were considered extreme and inhabited the outer right-wing boundaries of the party. Yet with each election cycle what was once considered the Republican right-wing fringe has come to represent the Republican mainstream. The group that has long been considered the “establishment” of the GOP is finding itself a minority, struggling to maintain its legitimacy as grounded and mature leaders of the party. Even those candidates once considered to inhabit the center-right of the party have been forced to pull up stakes and build their home base further and further right. But how far right is right? The GOP “race to the right” is going to answer that question in the coming months.
In the past few cycles the right was identified mostly in relation to social issues. Abortion, gay rights, gun rights, and equality under the law were some of the prime issues that separated the right-wing of the party from the center-right. While the GOP has always taken a fiscally conservative approach to economic issues, they were not typically anti worker. While they were not the darlings of the union movement, they learned to co-exist and understood that the unions helped to create and sustain the middle class of America. Yet the past few years have shown us a more vicious and self-serving GOP regarding issues of pay equity, worker protections, the minimum wage and consumer protections. While there has always been a segment of the party pushing for the elimination of all of these rights and protections, it was never before the mainstream. Yet today one of the symbols of the Republican establishment has publicly and without apology refused to allow his state to adopt a law requiring all businesses with 15 or more workers to provide seven earned paid sick days a year. He has also blocked the minimum wage legislation. The right-wing of the party is creating a powerful force pulling all of those who were once considered right of center further and further to the right.
While the GOP is doing everything possible to somehow erase responsibility for the current debacle in the Middle East from the doorstep of the Bush White House, it is promoting new and more dangerous adventures. The race is on to see which candidate can propose the most devastating and potentially disastrous American incursion into the Middle East. It is true that the GOP has always presented itself as the protector of national security, however its credibility in this area took a major blow as a result of the failed Bush policies. Yet, the right-wing is again taking over the party as it sees the need for the US to flex its muscles as the only way to assume its rightful place in the world. The candidates view negotiation as a sign of weakness and seem to derive some kind of personal machismo when discussing the need for military action. The last time they succeeded in bringing their delusions of military victory to reality it cost hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. However to the right this remains a near orgasmic experience.
All of this would be amusing to watch if the potential reality of it wasn’t so scary. There are virtually no moderate voices coming from the GOP. While there are some differences among the candidates, they seem to agree on all of the key issues-the issues that move them further and further to the right. We may view them as more a regional than a national party, and indeed in some ways they are. However, as a regional party they have taken control of both houses of Congress. Not bad for a party that is loosing demographically. We may not be able to see how they can possibly build a road to the White House, but let’s not become arrogant and be blind sided in 2016. Let’s do what it takes to assure that the right goes back to the fringe where it belongs. Let them race into obscurity.