Kaleidoscope: By Perry Diaz
In his 1990 autobiography “An American Life,” Ronald Reagan attributed the rule, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” to Gaylord Parkinson, the state Republican Chairman who introduced it to Reagan when he ran for Governor of California in 1966. The rule came to be known as the “Eleventh Commandment.”
Since then, Republicans have followed the Eleventh Commandment, religiously. But today, they have forgotten -- or chose to forget – the rule that had cohered the Republican Party in good times as well as in bad times.
The 2012 Republican presidential primaries became a cutthroat competition among the 11 presidential wannabes. One by one, they ganged up on whoever was the frontrunner and besmirched his character until there was only one man standing, Mitt Romney.
But Romney went to the November elections politically bruised and damaged. His presidential campaign was preoccupied with defending Romney from President Barack Obama who flayed Romney’s veneer as a successful businessman and exposed his flawed character. Had Romney and his primary rivals adhered to the Eleventh Commandment, he might have had a fighting chance in beating Obama.
With the 2014 primaries fast approaching, the Republicans have drawn the battle line that separates them. On one side are the traditional conservatives including what is left of the moderate wing. On the other side are the feisty right-wingers and their ideological allies, the Tea Partiers, Christian evangelicals, and Libertarians.
The 2014 Republican primaries could be a repeat of the 2010 primaries where the Tea Partiers trounced the traditional conservatives and moderates. And that year, the Tea Party went on to win in the November 2010 general elections and captured the House of Representatives.
The question is: Could the Tea Party repeat their victory in 2014? While they would likely come out ahead in the 2014 primaries, it is debatable whether they could win in the November general elections. And the reasons are:
1) Obamacare – Recently, GOP leaders – who are mostly, state governors and “has-beens” – declared that they would use Obamacare as the main issue in 2014, which they promised to repeal. But wasn’t that one of the key issues that Romney used against Obama in 2012… and lost? Why do they think that Obamacare would be the “holy grail” to regain control of the U.S. Senate? They only need to win six Senate seats to become the majority in the U.S. Senate. However, without a supermajority – 60 seats – they can’t break the gridlock in the Senate.
Now, assuming that the Republicans win 60 Senate seats, they still have to make sure that the House of Representatives remain under Republican speakership. But even if the House remained under Republican control, they still have to deal with a Democratic President who could veto any legislation. And unless the Republicans could muster the number of votes to override a presidential veto, they would probably be luckier flying a kite on a windless day.
It’s interesting to note that the House Republicans had voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times in the past two years! Why would they keep on repealing it when they know that it won’t even pass in the Senate today?
Honestly, repealing Obamacare could be like Napoleon facing the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. It would be the Republicans’ Waterloo and that would ensure – perhaps even guarantee – that the Democrats would win the White House again in 2016.
2) Immigration Reform – If Obamacare is the GOP’s Waterloo, Immigration Reform is their Achilles heel. With the bipartisan Gang of Eight (four Democrats and four Republicans) getting close to passing an immigration overhaul bill the Senate, the bill’s fate in the House hangs by a thread.
House Speaker John Boehner made it known that an immigration overhaul bill would pass the House only if it ensured the border is secured and that illegal immigrants are not given special treatment.
But here is the stinger: Boehner said that he would not bring a bill to the floor for a vote without a majority of Republicans supports it. And this is where it really gets very political. Members of the House Tea Party caucus led by Rep. Michele Bachmann are calling the bill an amnesty for the 11 million illegal immigrants.
If the House does not pass a Senate-approved bill, then the bill dies and that’s the end of immigration reform.
3) War on Women -- Anti-abortion, which has for so long been the GOP platform’s main plank, has taken a new dimension that covers a wide variety of issue including the definition of personhood, attack on Planned Parenthood, mandated vaginal ultrasound, criminalization of abortion, and ultimately the repeal of Roe vs. Wade. This war on women has alarmed women’s groups across the nation.
In the November 2012 elections, women overwhelmingly voted against Romney and senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock because of their perceived anti-women stands. In Akin’s widely publicized video interview, he said: “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” From that time on, Akin lost his electoral advantage in a red state, Missouri, and lost to a woman, Claire McCaskill.
Mourdock, who was supported by the Tea Party, defeated six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Richard Lugar in the 2012 Republican primary in Indiana. He was slightly ahead of Democrat Joe Donnelly in pre-election surveys until he explained his stand on rape, saying: “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” He lost the election to Donnelly.
Leaderless and rudderless, the straggling Republicans could only blame themselves if they are going to lose in the 2014 mid-term elections. If they continue to follow the trail the Tea Party took in 2012, they would be defeated in the 2014 mid-term elections with net losses in both chambers of Congress.
But they – particularly the Christian evangelicals -- should know better; Mark 3:25 says it all: “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Unless the Republicans stop their infighting, they stood nary a chance of capturing the White House in 2016... and worse, ever. And if the Grand Old Party does not retool its platform and refine its message to minorities and women, it will lose its standing as a viable national political party and would be relegated to a regional partisan entity with limited appeal to voters.
But what’s going to hurt them most is their nasty civil war. Yes, it’s GOP vs. GOP! And like any civil war, the only casualty is the GOP. Can the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln survive a civil war a second time around?