Is the GOP morphing into a more narrowly defined, exclusionary “movement?” CNN’s Bill Schneider believes it is.
In a piece in National Journal Magazine, Schneider points to a new poll that suggests many GOPers would prefer ideological purity to electability and writes:
Republicans may soon get their own version of the Ten Commandments. Led by James Bopp Jr. of Indiana, a group of conservative members of the Republican National Committee plans to propose a resolution at the RNC’s winter meeting that would establish standards candidates would have to meet to receive the party’s support.
To be a sanctified Republican, the resolution insists, thou shalt not support President Obama’s economic stimulus; “Obama-style government-run health care”; cap-and-trade energy legislation; “card-check” legislation to promote unionization; “amnesty for illegal immigrants”; government funding of abortions; or government restrictions on gun ownership. The Party of No? Not entirely. Thou shalt support the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriages; “military-recommended troop surges” in Iraq and Afghanistan; and containment of Iran and North Korea.
Anything about taxes? Nope. Even Ronald Reagan was an occasional backslider on that one.
The party would root out heretics with a sort of Inquisition — by examining candidates’ voting records, public statements, and signed responses to questionnaires. Would it permit deviations? Yes, a few.
And here is his “nut graph”:
Republican Party leaders may squelch the resolution before it can be brought to a vote in January. But the proposal does underscore a striking trend toward ideological conformity within the party. The conservative movement came to power with Reagan’s successful presidential campaign in 1980, year one in the conservative calendar. Since then, the GOP has been turning more and more into an ideological movement. A movement’s followers are expected to agree on everything (or at least 80 percent of everything). Otherwise, they’re not part of the movement. Political parties in the United States are supposed to be coalitions. To be part of a coalition, you only have to agree on one thing: You’re for the party’s candidate. No further questions asked: “You support Barack Obama?” Fine, say Democrats. “You’re one of us.”
And what does the poll show?
A recent CNN poll asked Republicans, “If you had to choose, would you rather see the Republican Party in your area nominate candidates who don’t agree with you on some major issues but have a good chance of beating the Democratic candidate, or would you rather see the Republican Party nominate candidates who agree with you on all major issues but have a poor chance of beating the Democratic candidate?” The Republican rank and file preferred purity over electability by 51 percent to 43 percent.
The poll asked a comparable question of Democrats. Give us a winner, Democrats responded, by 58 percent to 38 percent. Looks like the Party of No versus the Party of Whatever.
Does this mean the Demmies should breathe a sign of relief? Hardly.
At key moments in the mid to late 20th century and early 21st century, some Democrats insisted, why, they would teach their party a lesson by not voting for it since the party didn’t adhere to their position on a policy or issue. And when the Demmies lost, these Democrats would them seem shell shocked as Republicans who won exercised their legal right to run federal, state and/or judicial machinery and institute — and embed — policies that Democrats opposed.
If you have a movement full of True Believers versus a party with some members who’ll teachtheir own party elites a lesson by by not voting so a bunch of Democrats are kicked out of office, just guess which one could win? It isn’t just “to the victors go the spoils,” it is also “to the active..”
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.