, Gloucester, MA

July 30, 2013

Letter: How conservative can the GOP go?

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor;

Is today’s Republican Party locked in some kind of strange, self inflicted-death spiral?

The question is not meant to be flippant, but think about it.

Not all that long ago, many GOP strategists were confidently predicting the emergence of a “permanent Republican majority.” But today, with the party’s base dominated by some of the most extreme, right wing, overwhelmingly white, political and religious elements of the last half century, that “permanent Republican majority” is looking increasingly illusory.

In many ways that is because the GOP is as much at war with itself as it is out of touch with a majority of Americans on a litany of issues — including immigration reform, marriage equality, gun safety, civil and voting rights, women’s health, climate change, and even tax and economic policy.

Evidence of this escalating intra-party Republican civil war is mounting all around the country.

In Wyoming, Liz Cheney is challenging the conservative incumbent, Mike Enzi, in that state’s GOP Senate primary because in, Cheney’s eyes, Enzi is not right wing enough and has been too willing to compromise with all those evil liberals in Washington.

In South Carolina, the far right Tea Party Patriots are mounting an effort to defeat Sen. Lindsay Graham, the traditionally conservative incumbent, in the Palmetto State’s GOP Senate primary because he, like Enzi, is not right wing enough.

That effort includes an ugly and less than subtle whispering campaign designed to stoke rumors and speculation about Graham’s sexual orientation.

In New York, the long time, traditionally conservative Congressman Peter King recently announced he is considering a presidential run in 2016. He did so because he is concerned the popularity of right wing, Tea Party style extremists like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, and Rick Perry with the party’s base, coupled with the disproportionate influence that base yields in several early primary contests, could result in a right wing extremist becoming the party’s nominee — all but guaranteeing the Democrats retain the White House in 2016.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this intra-party civil war is that if Ronald Reagan were alive today he, because of his past willingness to raise taxes and compromise with his political opponents, would likely be unacceptable as a Republican presidential candidate to the right wing extremist who now dominate the party’s base.

And, given how genuinely conservative the Gipper was, the bizarre, even frightening irony of that political reality should be lost on no one.