This means the next Speaker of the House will not have the leverage to accept a “grand bargain” between Congress and President Obama on long-term budget and tax decisions and entitlement reform of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid because hard right zealots do not trust their leadership to engage in the “art of the possible” without selling out.
The radical right must either be:
— placated by the Republican nominee, which will make the nominee too conservative for the general election on the deficit, the budget, immigration and health care, foreign policy; or
— rejected by the Republican establishment and nominee, in which case hard-right Republicans will probably mount a third-party challenge, guaranteeing a Republican loss in the 2016 general election.
You might think this is suicidal, and it is. But the special interest groups that control this faction of the Republican Party actually benefit from losing, from refusing to compromise, from being out of power. They can raise more money for their advocacy. They feed on victimhood and unresolved conflict, not compromise.
Jeb Bush they perceive as too liberal — his brother violated free market fundamentalism by bailing out the big banks and engaging in massive deficit spending.
Ohio Governor John Kasich they perceive as weak — he sold out by embracing Obamacare and Medicaid funding for the poor.
The American media tendency to focus on personalities, as if we just get the best personalities in the White House, the Cabinet and Congress, and all will be right with the world, is truly flawed logic. Ideas and ideology matter far more than personalities.
Even the best, or least worst, or most sensible Republican nominee, will have to answer to the far-right caucus who will threaten to bolt or sit at home, not vote, if the nominee doesn’t suit them. The nominee will be forced to:
- sign a pledge promising a balanced budget, and reducing the federal debt, even though, with a growing economy, the debt is shrinking dramatically as percentage of GDP.
- deny climate change and man-made global warming,
- declare gay marriage immoral, and support the “right” of Christian office-holders to deny gays the right to marry
- declare all Muslims unfit to serve in elective office,
- spout nativist hostility to immigrants,
- promise to build a (nonsensical) wall on the US Southern border.
They, and too many others, don’t realize American politics is a team sport. Compromise is essential for government.
The Republican team looks almost hopelessly fractured at this point. The only thing the hard right will understand is LOSING another election before they agree to abandon unpopular ideas. They are under the illusion that a few Tea Party victories in 2010, 2012, and 2014, represent the will of the majority.
Perhaps they need to launch a third party and see how well it does to come to grips with political reality. I know a number of hard-right conservatives who have already gone over to the Constitution Party.
Republicans in 2016 remind me of Democrats in 1972 or 1988…deeply divided, causing the other side to win by almost default. Remember that Nixon in 1972 had high negatives, and Bush in 1988 had high negatives, but Democrats could not take advantage of that.
Maybe Rubio, Kasich or Bush can thread this needle, but I seriously doubt it.