There’s a lot of speculation going on right now that the chaos in the House of Representatives illustrates to the public that the Republican Party is dying. While I think the party is perhaps deathly ill, what’s going on in the House is proof that there is a panacea for the illness.
Ask any moderate Republican in the House what the illness is, and they will tell you it is the extreme Right and the people they have elected that are causing every major issue the party is facing. Tea Party Conservatism to them is a cancer on the GOP because it seeks to divide rather than bring together. In modern day psychology, we call the moderates’ diagnosis of this “projection.”
Are the moderates the problem? Not necessarily. Moderation comes in various degrees, and not everyone who is moderate on a particular issue is going to capitulate on every thing, every time. We need moderates on our side because they are a good indicator of where negotiations should end. Negotiations are not a bad word, after all. Reagan scored great conservative victories because he knew how to negotiate to keep the other side happy and still come away with big wins.
So, if neither the moderates nor the conservatives are the illness within the GOP, what is?
Power does things to people. It shifts your priorities, makes you lose focus of what matters, and can corrupt you. It may not be the Evil Overlord type of corruption, but it is the type that lures you off the path you were supposed to take. Power was handed to [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] and [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ]. It was the power to fight what their supporters saw as tyranny and government overreach. When they got their power, when they became leaders in their respective chambers, they had all this power. They had the press wanting to talk to them. They had big corporations and special interests wanting to give them money and hang out with them. They were popular in D.C.
Fighting might risk that. Fighting might make you unpopular. If you’re unpopular, if you lose, all the shiny things go away.
The chaos in the House of Representatives comes from the party leadership’s capitulation of responsibility in favor of a seat at the table of power. When the cacophony of unpleasantness finally became unbearable, rather than try to right the ship, [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] quit. He wished to make himself appear a martyr, “for the good of the institution,” to make it sound like he went out by choice. But, his time was up before then.
The conservatives get blasted for not having a replacement ready. I was disappointed myself that there didn’t seem to be a plan. However, despite no replacement of their own handy, the conservatives (led by the House Freedom Caucus) banded together and demanded to be heard. And they were. For the first time in a long time, all voices were heard and had equal weight.
Yes, [mc_name name=’Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’M001165′ ] bowed out. Yes, it looks like Webster and Chaffetz won’t get it either. We may end up with [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ]. But now the Republican Party knows that all voices have to be listened to, and that you cannot simply operate in dark, smoke-filled rooms and make deals while ignoring those colleagues of yours who actually represent ideologically what your voting base does. This chaos is not an illness. It is the remedy. The Party may yet survive through 2016.