First a little back story to set the stage:
Throughout the 90’s and 2000’s the GOP famously partnered with the far right and met with considerable success getting out the vote with wedge issues like abortion, gay rights, school prayer, flag burning and the like. After 8 years of Clinton, people wanted a president that was not so sleazy and so they settled for everyman George W. Bush. His presidency was listless and lacking direction until 911. Meanwhile the coalition with the religious far right continued on unabated. We saw the rise of conservative talk radio in the 90’s and the rise of Fox News in the 2000’s. Things were good but nothing lasts forever.
After 8 years of Bush the economy was crumbling. People were well aware of the needless Iraq War and weary of the Afghanistan War. They were ready for a change and boy did they get it in Barack Obama – the first black president. And then they came.
The teaparty exploded to life immediately after Obama’s election. The GOP resolved to block every Obama initiative and force his administration into failure in the hopes that the GOP could take back the White House in 2012. The teaparty grew in strength with highly engaged local activists and money coming in from traditional GOP funding sources. Meanwhile the early Obama administration soon found out that the GOP weren’t going to play ball in any way and so they started ramming through whatever they could on the strength of their majority in the House and Senate with the most significant piece of legislation being Obamacare.
And then came the 2010 elections.
The teaparty reaped the rewards of their hard work and wrested control of the House from the Democrats. Fox news and the conservative echo chamber convinced a lot of people that Obama was pure evil – socialist, fascist, Kenyan, shredding the Constitution, and a whole lot of other nonsense. But even with the teaparty successes there were alarming signs. The teaparty were beating solid GOP candidates in primaries and fielding their far right candidates who would then lose to the Democrat in the general election. Christine O’Donnell was an early example of this. At the same time mainstream Republicans became afraid of the power this bunch had and started posturing more and more to the right to appease teaparty militants. By the time the presidential primary season came, the GOP had a field of far, far, right candidates and a small handful of run-of-the-mill conservatives who were espousing far-right rhetoric. Each candidate attacked the other trying to grab the most-conservative brass ring. I remember one GOP debate that where 3 of the 10 candidates said they didn’t believe in evolution – that’s 30 percent. This circular firing squad did more damage than Obama and the Democrats could ever hope to do.
After Obamacare passed the teaparty went into overdrive and had enough racists showing up at their rallies that the left had an easy time painting the whole movement as a bunch of bigots. Do I think that all teapartiers are racist? Nope. But enough of them are that it has tainted the whole movement. They became more and more intractable until Speaker Boehner lost control of his party and couldn’t pass even normal housekeeping items like raising the debt ceiling. Immigration reform? Forget it. Debt reduction – no way. Congress ground to a halt. The teaparty had become a Frankenstein monster that the GOP could not control.
Along came the 2012 election and the teaparty fielded a whole bunch of very far right candidates who said a whole lot of very dumb things costing the party a number of Senate seats. Their far right and frankly crazy positions drove enough people into the Obama camp that he won a very solid victory. Given the state of the economy and his generally lackluster presidency the GOP lost the election that couldn’t be lost. The teaparty alienated hispanics, blacks, women, homosexuals, and pretty much everyone who wasn’t an old white guy.
Fast forward to today. The teaparty nearly drove the country off the economic abyss with a needless shutdown and threat to default. They had no plan to win. The saner members of the GOP were now sick and tired of these numbskulls and started to turn on them. That’s where it stands today. Moderate and even conservative republicans are sick of being manhandled by a minority that cannot be reasoned with and who will gladly burn down the house if they don’t get 100% of everything they want.
Going forward – the GOP is in a very very bad place. The teaparty is looking for revenge on the McCains and McConnells – in other words anyone who is not a rabid teabagger. They have enough grassroots clout to win a bunch of primaries and field the ultra-conservative candidates. 2014 will be real interesting. I don’t think the GOP will lose the House but it is a distinct possibility. Mainstream Republicans will not play ball with this group anymore and I expect that the party will splinter and become even more dysfunctional than it is right now – which is pretty damn dysfunctional.
This is all fantastic news for Democrats. Obama hasn’t exactly been the most inspiring president. The debt problem alone should have been enough to give the GOP a full takeover the House, the Senate, and the White House. Instead they are gladly welcoming all the people that the far right have driven away. Democrats can thank the teaparty for that. A rising Hispanic population continues to work in their favor. The GOP shows no signs of moderating – in fact many of their active members are calling for the party to become even more conservative. This all works in favor of Democrats. I don’t see any statistical way that the GOP can win the White House or even take many seats in a purple state. Sure they can still win a red state but as people become more tolerant, the far right engine that is driving the GOP will push their train right off the cliff. Can the GOP change? Sure – but not in time for 2016 and probably not for at least a decade. They will only be viable again when they moderate their message and can convince people that they really believe it. There is currently no real signs of that happening.
Now before you all slam me for being a liberal – which I am – remember that this is prediction based on what I see. If you see it differently good for you.