A disconnect between reality and ideology is the number one problem in the Republican Party today.
It is no secret that there are two very distinct groups under the GOP umbrella right now. The Republican establishment and the TEA Party Republicans are fighting for control of the party. So far the only beneficiaries of this conservative civil war are the Democrats.
The TEA Party Republicans have emerged as a political force for ultra conservative ideals. They are often called extremists and wackos by establishment types.
They have pet names for the establishment republicans, as well. They like to call them RINOs – Republicans In Name Only.
Both see each other as the biggest problem within the party.
During Senator Ted Cruz’s faux filibuster of Obamacare, Conservative columnist Christopher Adamo tweeted, “Likely Cruz's greatest feat is to show who in the GOP is genuine, and who is a RINO.”
Much of what the TEA Party has brought to the party is the “definition” of what a Republican and Conservative are. The idea that one needs to sign a loyalty to be a “real Republican” is a great way to create a country club atmosphere but a bad way to run an election.
Matt Drudge also showed this conservative disconnect this week on Twitter. He discovered President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act’s secret to success.
“Go to any Walmart at 3 in the morning and people watch, and you will understand deeply why Obama is president and why nation is where it is,” he thumbed out with all of the sanctimony and ignorance that could be contained in 140 characters.
Are we to believe that aisles at Walmart at 3 a.m. were meeting places for the rich and famous while George W. Bush was President? Did those same people get us into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Obviously, this type of class warfare has been great fuel for Republican opponents and, with mouthpieces like this, the party doesn’t seem to be headed in a better direction.
But to use a sports analogy, this down time could be used as a rebuilding year for the brand. But in order to turn defeat into victory, you need to know three things.
1) Know who you are
The Republicans on both sides of the equation need to know who they are. If you belong to the TEA Party and hold to those beliefs, the chances are very good that you would be considered extremely conservative by most outside of your party. You need to know that. If you are uber conservative and consider yourself rather moderate in your beliefs, you will never know how to navigate the political minefield. Imagine a person who doesn’t know how to drive a car with a standard transmission trying to navigate an obstacle course. Now realize that is the equivalent of nominating candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell for Senate seats. You are hitting all of the cones.
Page 2 of 3 - 2) Know what you need
Identifying the problem is a great step. You can’t treat a disease without a good diagnosis. Now that we know the RINO-TEA divide is a major issue, how do we solve it? There are two options. One side either has to dominate the other and decimate them or a bridge has to be built between the two. It is easy to celebrate people like Cruz because be makes grand stands against a common opponent. But Cruz and his supporters are pushing for option number one (total domination of the establishment) and that is highly unlikely. It’s a numbers game and recent results at the ballot box and in the halls of Congress show what ultimate success this option is likely to bring. After eight years of Barack Obama’s leftward push, voters will be ready to ride the pendulum back to the right. But that pendulum will stop dead in its arc if the party tries to accelerate the swing to rapidly.
3) Know how to get it
Knowing that the Republicans should hold an advantage heading into the wide open 2016 election, losing will be caused totally by practicing the same bad strategy of the past two election cycles. Sarah Palin is very popular in the Inner Circle. She has made a lot of money for herself by leading a fragment of the party. But she is leading you astray. The primary process for 2016 has to be far less about destroying opponents and more about building up a candidate who will intrigue the fascinations of both TEA Party members and those of the establishment.
That is tough to do. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could do it, but not if he has to march in lock step with authors of a loyalty oath. He will lead early and disappear as candidates who are willing to spout ideals they don’t espouse come to the forefront. Then you will put a John McCain/Mitt Romney style candidate on the ballot and spend fur more years scratching your heads about why Hilary Clinton won.
Here is the path to success. You can keep watching FOX News and listening to talk radio. But you need to cut that back to 12 hours a day.
Spend a little time looking at the unwashed masses who disagree with you. If you make elections a win/lose proposition you will lose more than you win.
If you can find that candidate who is “more right” then you can inspire voters who haven’t signed a loyalty oath but who like some of the conservative ideals the candidate runs on.
You don’t have to be perfect, just better than your opponent.
Page 3 of 3 - Even “those people” in Walmart at 3 a.m. know that.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org