Over the years, I’ve developed a number of friendships with my counterparts on the other side of the political aisle, political professionals who work for Republican candidates or conservative causes. I also read, or at least peruse, Commentary Magazine, National Review and various material coming out of the John Locke Foundation and Civitas. I like to know what the other side thinks and I like to challenge my own assumptions.
What I don’t like to do is listen to the drivel that spews from the Mad Hatters of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. It’s a reactionary movement driven by imaginary fears that has held Congress hostage and made North Carolina a national laughing-stock. It’s time for the GOP to reel in their nuts.
The Tea Party folks are the ideological descendants of the John Birch Society, the extremist group founded by the Koch brothers’ father, and purged from the Republican party by conservatives like William F. Buckley, Jr. It’s hard to take seriously any group that sees Glenn Beck as a leader and it’s the responsibility of serious Republicans to stop them the way Buckley stopped the Birchers.
So far, the Tea Party has led the GOP to be the party that puts religion and profits before science, thinks more guns makes society safer, believes states’ rights trump federal law and, in North Carolina, supports a state religion. Ten years ago, these denizens of the fringe would be a joke even in conservative GOP circles. Today, they are Republican legislators, Members of Congress and even U. S. Senators.
The political strategist in me wants the GOP to keep nominating the Sarah Palins, Todd Akins, Richard Mourdocks and Christine O’Donnells that will eventually make the Republican Party go the way of the dinosaur. The citizen in me wants the return of the party of Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt so we can have a functioning government once again.
To get there, though, Republicans are going to have to rein in their own political instincts. In their zeal to keep Democrats out of office through radical redistricting, they made moderate Republicans the most endangered species in politics. In Virginia, they opted for a caucus instead of a primary and nominated a Lt. Governor candidate who is probably unelectable and gubernatorial candidate who single-handedly revived a flailing Terry McAuliffe campaign.
As long as Republicans have to appeal to the extremes to get nominated, they risk their long-term survival. If they want to stay a competitive party for decades instead of only years, they need to reel in their right flank, pay attention to the demographic changes taking place in the country and find the center once again. Otherwise, they should look out for the Queen of Hearts emerging from their own ranks and screaming, “Off with their heads!”