Why The GOP May Disintegrate
It’s no stretch to say that we suffer a leadership vacuum. While Obama’s personal ratings are not terrible, Congress’s ratings have remained among the worst since the start of the Financial Crisis. These ratings have not improved an iota once the Republicans took control of the House.
The presidential race this year features one candidate that doesn’t really deserve re-election based on performance and the other does not deserve to be President based on a paucity of ideas as well as political experience (not to mention his low likability ratings). Few voting this year can with a straight face say that they believe “their guy” will actually improve the situation considerably;it is more of a negative vote for the other candidate.
When there is a leadership vacuum as well as a major national concern, a major political realignment can easily occur. The comparison I would draw is to the period before the Civil War. The pre-Civil War presidents were considered among the worst in American History, as they continuously delayed and failed to deal with the slavery issue and ultimately failed in keeping the country unified. What is easily forgotten during this period is that the Whig party collapsed in the 1850’s, eventually being replaced by the Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican to successfully win the presidency was forced to deal with the slavery issue and is now widely regarded as the best American president ever.
It is perhaps ironic that the same party, born out of the collapse of another party during a pressing national crisis, may very well likely to face its own demise soon.
The State of the Republican Party
Currently, the Republicans are divided among Tea Party Republicans and the Establishment Republicans. Both groups do not gather much like from independents, but the Tea Party is especially disliked. What started as a sideshow has now become center stage and independents have taken notice. Polls have shown the Tea Party is becoming more unfavorable and is bringing down Republicans with them as moderates disapprove of their extreme views as well as the racist streaks of the movement (about half of Tea Partiers believe Obama is a Muslim that was born outside of the US).
While the Tea Party did not get “their guy” as the presidential nominee, they have been successful at the state and local level. In particular, they were able to nominate Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, both of which lost elections which the Republicans would have likely won if they had a moderate or Establishment candidate.
So far in 2012, the Tea Party has made waves in several primaries for Senate. Ted Cruz’s victory in Texas particularly showed the strength of the movement. While he and Dewhurst differed little on actual issues, Cruz’s Tea Party backing won him the nomination. Dewhurst had a strong incumbent-like advantage as the Lieutenant Governor as well as Governor Perry’s endorsement, but the strength of the Tea Party was able to overcome Dewhurst.
Richard Lugar, a longtime moderate Republican, was defeated in the GOP primary by upstart Tea Party backed Richard Mourdock. Lugar likely would have won the general election without much of a fight, but now the election will be legitimately contested
Todd Akin won a three-way race to become the GOP nominee in Missouri, defeating an Establishment candidate and another Tea Party candidate. Akin was considered the weakest candidate to go against McCaskill, and his insensitive and downright senile rape comments proved why this is the case. McCaskill is now considered the favorite to win the election, while she likely would have been an underdog against the Establishment candidate.
Currently, the Establishment and the Tea Party are joined together by necessity. The Tea Party accepted and supported the Romney nomination since they view Obama as a much greater evil than Romney. The Establishment has no choice but to field Tea Party candidates in many of the Senate races, even if the Tea Party will likely cost them several senate seats since the Tea Party makes up so many of the GOP voters.
A GOP Beatdown On November 6
If the GOP loses the Presidential election and have a poor showing in the Senate, a schism could likely occur within the party. Given the poor state of the economy and in particular the labor market, the challenging party (the GOP) should have easily won the presidency and picked up a considerable amount of senate seats. Anything less is a failure.
However, with projections showing a likely Obama victory and the GOP losing races in Missouri and possibly Indiana, the GOP may be sucking on sour grapes soon. The Tea Party may not accept an Establishment candidate in 2016, as doing so failed their interests in 2012. The Establishment may blame the Tea Party for their poor showing in 2012, since they’ll lose senate seats they should have easily won (adding to the list they should have won in 2010) as well as the realization that the Tea Party is tarnishing the GOP brand.
Amidst a National Crisis
While political parties undergo realignments and power sharing in normal times, we are far from normality. We live in a highly partisan climate but are facing a health care cost crisis, a labor market in the toilet, and a potential national debt crisis.
Currently, financial markets are relatively calm. If the above factors trigger another market meltdown, we will likely see more of a call to action. The Establishment Republicans may seek to work with the Democrats (and President Obama assuming his re-election) whereas the Tea Partiers will insist on going their own route with a strong, ideological stand. This could form the basis of a GOP split.
What will happen with the GOP will be similar to what happened to the Whig Party in the 1850’s. Amongst the crisis surrounding the slavery issue, Whigs were divided as what to do. Some chose to ignore it, whereas other demanded radical action, in particular the prohibition of slavery in new states. The radicals later founded the Republican Party and would be the big winners of the Whig Party disintegration. The other Whigs joined the Know Nothings (later to become the American Party) or the Constitutional Union Party. Both of these parties soon disintegrated.
In the GOP’s case, we would likely see the Tea Party split from the GOP. Most likely, it would go the way of the Know Nothing or the Constitutional Union Party and not matter for more than one or two election cycles. The ex-Establishment Republicans would likely move towards the center to form a broader coalition with some ex-Democrats. We would still have a two party system, but the current Republican Party may be no more. It may move drastically towards the center or the vestiges of it may form a new, more stable party. If the latter occurs, it would be considered the end of the Republican/Democratic system that has oprated since the end of the Civil War to the present.