There is an unspoken alliance between the Democratic Party and the Tea Party wing of the GOP that makes governing in Washington more difficult. There is a commonality of interests between these two groups that binds them together, namely the destruction of the fading moderate portion of the Republican Party, branded as RINOs (Republicans in name only) by Tea Party advocates and other extreme conservatives. Since the enemy of my enemy should be my friend, the Tea Party and the Democrats are allied.
Indeed, challenges by the Tea Party to the right of Senate incumbents in Republican primaries, or supporting other extreme candidates that win these primaries, have helped the Democrats retain control of the Senate. Some of these Republican/Tea Party candidates have come out with statements that have turned off independents, women, and young voters, and aided Democratic candidates to emerge victorious from the general elections. Included were statements about “legitimate rape” not resulting in pregnancy by candidate Todd Akin in Missouri which helped re-elect Claire McKaskill and that by Richard Mourdock in Indiana who said that pregnancy resulting from rape was “something that God intended” which assisted Democrat Joe Donnelly in the senatorial race. Of course, if the Tea Party had not replaced popular incumbent Richard Lugar with Mourdock, the seat would have likely remained in Republican hands.
In the 2008 senatorial elections, Christine O’Donnell of Delaware was defeated easily in the senatorial race partially due to some of her bizarre statements on witchcraft and other subjects, though she would undoubtedly have lost anyway to Joe Biden. However, a much more moderate GOP candidate, Mike Castle, who might have had a chance against Biden, never was able to run
in the general election because of Tea Party backing of O’Donnell. In Nevada, Harry Reid probably could have been defeated if the Republicans had nominated a reasonable candidate, but Tea Partier Sharon Angle had multiple controversial stances that doomed her candidacy.
Only in Republican strongholds like Utah or Texas can candidates like Mike Lee or Ted Cruz be victorious in general elections, but they have no chance in swing states, or states that are even slightly red. (Mike Lee defeated conservative Republican incumbent Bob Bennett to obtain the GOP senatorial nomination in Utah.) Because of possible primary threats from the right, Republican senators have been less willing to work with Democrats to craft needed legislation and have espoused more extremist views.
The Tea Party has done better in Congressional elections by winning state legislatures and governorships and then gerrymandering the Congressional districts to favor conservative Republicans. Since the Representatives only have to answer to their conservative constituents, they do not have to worry about compromising to get things done on a federal level. Their intransigence has been the main reason for the gridlock in Washington. Even now, Republican members of Congress are conducting multiple investigations trying for “gotcha” moments against the Obama administration, rather than working on the nation’s real problems.
Unfortunately, true centrist Republicans willing to negotiate with Democrats in order to govern are now a dying breed. However, even though government cannot function in Washington, the Democrats nationally have become stronger. This is because the Tea Party and Republican
conservatives keep alienating Latinos and other minorities, women, and independents. Since many of the social positions the Republicans promote are anathema to the younger generation, it is likely that the GOP will continue to fade in the future unless there is a major change in direction. The Democrats have outpolled the Republicans in the last five presidential elections in terms of popular vote. They also outpolled the Republicans nationally in both the Senatorial and House races in 2012, even though more GOP representatives were elected because of unfair gerrymandering.
The Republicans cannot gerrymander the presidential or senatorial elections, though they have used various means to try and limit minority voting. There is a demographic wave coming that the Republicans cannot hold back. Unless moderates can regain control of the Republican Party from the extremists, the GOP will become a vestigial remnant of a once proud party.
Maybe as the party continues its downward slide, Republican centrists will develop enough “conjones” to leave the party and join with independents and moderate Democrats to form a new centrist party, advocating principles the Republican Party has now abandoned. (Ah, that wishing would make it so.)
Political junkie, Vietnam vet, neurologist- three books on aging and dementia. Book on health care reform in 2009- Shock Therapy for the American Health Care System. Book on the need for a centrist third party- Resurrecting Democracy- A Citizen’s Call for a Centrist Third Party published in 2011. Aging Wisely, published in August 2014 by Rowman and Littlefield. Latest book- The Uninformed Voter published May 2020