Now that the Tea Party has failed in its direct bid to destroy Obamacare, even at the expense of the nation’s “full faith and credit,” they have nothing left to do but destroy what remains of the national Republican Party.
The precedent has been set. Cooler–dare we say saner–heads have prevailed. The only thing left for the Tea Party to do now is exact their revenge on their own party members.
Just as the far left once destroyed a Democrat majority because it could not get its way, so the Tea Party will attempt to force Republicans further right and into national political irrelevancy.
The reality is that Republicans have maneuvered themselves into a position where they will be forced to deal with the federal budget and the debt limit just prior to the kickoff of the 2014 primary season. Can Republicans afford to shut down the government and bring the nation toward default that close to a primary season?
The answer is that Republicans have already lost no matter what they do in January and February, especially in districts not sufficiently gerrymandered, or in districts where a split Republican ticket would give Democrats the advantage. An example of the latter is the Virginia governor’s race. Terry McAuliffe should not be winning that race but he is because a far-right candidate has split the Republican ticket. Of course, Ken Cuccinelli has not helped himself by taking some rather hard-right positions. Yes, the race could still shift in Cuccinelli’s favor but it is getting pretty late to do so.
With regard to Republicans next year there are at least three possibilities when it comes to what happens next spring and the following fall.
The first possibility is that the Republicans might try to finagle budget concessions from Democrats in January and February, possibly targeting Obamacare again so they can please the Tea Party caucus. If they are willing yet one more time to close the government and bring the nation close to default this might increase their immediate appeal to the Tea Party and other far-right elements, but it would likely alienate the great middle of the political spectrum. Additionally, it would not last since Republicans would eventually have to make a deal to again open the government and meet the country’s financial obligations.
So, this first possibility could embolden Tea Party proponents to challenge even conservative Republicans during the primaries in order to ensure that political deal-making is even more difficult over the next several years. However, it is not certain that hard-right candidates would win in elections against moderate Democrats. It could lead to a Democrat controlled House, or at least a lesser majority for Republicans.
The second possibility is that Democrats and Republicans come quickly to an agreement over the budget and spending in January and February, along with a resolution on the debt limit. If this were to happen there is no doubt that Tea Party proponents would be out in force come spring 2014, especially if Obamacare is not challenged. If Republicans go straight into deal-making that would only increase Tea Party ire and ratchet up the rhetoric against Republicans In Name Only (RINOs). This would have the same effect as the first possibility but it might mean an even more widespread challenge to incumbent Republicans, which could seriously jeopardize the Republican majority in the House and potentially create a Democrat super-majority in the Senate.
The third possibility is in my opinion the least likely to happen. This possibility involves more moderate Republicans taking control of their party and somehow reigning in the Tea Party factions in the House and Senate. I think this is unlikely for two reasons. First, I don’t think the leadership has the power to do it. Second, I don’t think Republicans can afford to alienate what might be five or ten percent on their constituency. After all, these folks might just sit home in the fall if their choice is between a Democrat and someone they view as a moderate Republican. They also might vote for a third, Tea Party approved, candidate thus assuring a Democrat victory.
No matter how this plays out the Republican Party is in for tough times ahead, and it will not be because Democrats are master politicians or because the Democrat platform is overwhelmingly supported by voters. It will be because of the decisions the RNC has been making the last several years, primarily the decision to be a party of nostalgia rather than a party of the future.
The Republican Party needs a wake-up call, and I think the Tea Party is about to give it to them–but not in a good way. The Tea Party is about to teach Republicans that they need to become a modern political party, that they need to expand their base rather than catering to the shrinking factions they now represent. The Tea Party is about to teach the Republicans that “re-branding” will not win them elections, particularly if they continue to sail with a ship of fools.