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If the Republican Party were to disband by Rob Scharr
For most of the history of the two-party system in the United States, the Democratic Party has been regarded as the more unwieldy coalition. Since FDR’s time, the party had been shifting between Northern Jews and Catholics, poor Southern whites, African Americans, Latinos, environmentalists, labor unions, gay rights groups, academics, feminists, anti-war activists, liberals, and secularist groups. By contrast, the Republicans have had a much more homogenous coalition: business interests, defense interests, and white (often religious) voters ranging from the working class to the wealthy.
In spite of this, while most of this Democratic coalition is solidly behind President Obama’s re-election effort this cycle, there are calls from some of the GOP’s influential voices to schism, especially if Mitt Romney fails to win the election. Up until recently, these calls were mounting in frustration from Romney’s failure to move ahead in the polls. While Romney now enjoys a slight advantage and a good bit of momentum, this is still anybody’s race, and should Romney lose, expect there for be renewed calls from commentators like Laura Ingraham (who called for the party to be “shut down” after the election), Sean Hannity (who is registered in the New York Conservative Party) and Glenn Beck (who had promised, at the peak of his popularity, to “destroy the two-party system” if necessary.)
If the Republican Party were to schism, I foresee five possible ways in which it could happen. Each, of course, would have its pros and cons.
-The Republican Party dissolves, leaving all former members independent.
This scenario would most directly benefit leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, for at least in the interim, they would be guaranteed to have the largest coalition voting for them to lead the chamber. On the other hand, new conservative candidates would no longer be so easily tied to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell (who are not especially popular with the American electorate) nor would they be easily tied anymore to George W. Bush (who remains immensely unpopular). Furthermore, with the fiscal cliff looming, the deficit not reined in, and some of the most contentious aspects of Obamacare yet to be implemented, the Democratic Party’s popularity may yet further plunge, leading to an “anything-but-Democrat” movement, without the baggage that the GOP brings today.
-The Republican Party disbands, and formerly GOP lawmakers join the Democratic caucus, leading to a transitional one-party state.
This scenario, while unthinkable to some, would be especially damaging to the American left, as being a Democrat would no longer pre-indicate a belief system or any set of policy preferences. While Boehner and McConnell would no longer be leaders in their party, it is likely that neither would Reid or Pelosi. The Party leadership race would be a war on multiple fronts, where people across the spectrum would have their own visible factions vying for the leadership- and under this scenario, it is conceivable that either a Blue Dog Democrat or a moderate former Republican could be elected to lead the single party in the chamber. While this centrist leadership may resonate with a lot of voters, should there be a leadership outcome that would not be acceptable to the Democratic Party’s left flank, the pressure would then be on them to schism and instead declare themselves communists, socialists, Working Families Party members, and so forth.
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- -The Republican Party splits into two or more smaller parties, who do not cooperate in elections.
The Conservative Party of Canada has been here before, splitting to yield the socially conservative Canadian Alliance with the more mainstream Progressive Conservatives. Both parties were at each other’s throats and both fell into oblivion, leading to more than a decade-long rule by the Liberal Party. Only when the Conservatives regrouped would they once again be strong enough to win an election, and when the new party was re-formed, the social conservatives’ agenda was essentially marginalized. A similar instance could well happen in the United States.
The Tea Party have been potential schismatics since their surfacing in 2009, and many of them are begrudgingly now supporting Romney only because of how eager they are to kick Obama out of the White House. They do not like lawmakers who cooperated with the Bush agenda of expanded government and bailouts, and are wary that so many people from the Bush White House are now part of Romney’s election campaign. A Romney victory would give the Tea Party cause to celebrate, but it would not be long before they begin to make extreme demands for cuts in taxes in government spending. If Romney were to neglect to meet their demands, many would immediately see schism as the only remaining option for Tea Partiers to have a voice.
Were the Tea Party to split off, some religious conservatives would go with them. Some would form their own party. Other groups, such as the Log Cabin Republicans, might find a home with the Libertarians, leaving everyone else, the Bush/Rove/Cheney crowd, out on their own. Some Democratic politicians might see one of these splinter parties as much less objectionable than the Republican Party at large, and may be allured by promises of leadership posts and other types of influence within the parties. And while the Republican Party would then be gone, so would the stigma that some Jews, African Americans, and Latinos now hold against it. If the math were to work itself out to where all the other parties combined garnered more seats than the Democrats, a coalition government in each chamber could be formed.
-The Republican Party splits into two or more parties, who would then cooperate in elections.
Some would think this scenario would assuredly be better for conservatives- cooperation is always good, right? Not so fast.
It is true that under the third scenario, were the Democratic Party to somehow remain united (a tall order) to face off against a divided Right, they would win an overwhelming number of seats under our current first-past-the-post system. With this in mind, the new, formerly-Republican splinter parties might agree not to run candidates in districts/states where another splinter party is stronger. This would mean that in urban areas like Los Angeles or New York City, the Tea Party and social conservatives might defer to the more centrist party and not run candidates of their own, leaving the centrist candidate to take on the Democrats by himself. The more moderate elements, in contrast, would defer to social conservatives in the South, and in extremely white districts, the Tea Party would be left to run its own candidate.
What are the disadvantages to this? For starters, all of the new parties, if they were cooperating this closely on a national level, would have a much harder time claiming independence from the defunct Republican Party, and hence would have a much harder time courting the types of voters that have long resisted the Republicans.
-The Republicans boycott the House and Senate, and the federal government is paralyzed from failure to meet quorum, leaving the states to take things into their own hands.
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- -The Republicans boycott the House and Senate, and the federal government is paralyzed from failure to meet quorum, leaving the states to take things into their own hands.
What did Texas state Democrats do when they were to vote on a redistricting plan that they didn’t like? They didn’t show up. What did Wisconsin state Democrats do when they wanted to block Walker’s labor reforms? They didn’t show up. There’s hardly any reason the Republicans can’t take a page out of this playbook if the election doesn’t go their way.
Any Republican candidate running could pledge to boycott Congress, and were Congress to consistently fail to meet quorum, the Democrats would be powerless to pass their agenda. This situation, however, might prompt the federal government to attempt draconian measures to force lawmakers to attend, and if the opposition were to remain defiant, a vicious cycle of social unrest may ensue, paving the way for a possible revolution and new social order.
I am not advocating any particular one of these five scenarios, but I am just illustrating some of the possible ways schism might occur, and some of the possible consequences it may bring. And with record numbers of voters having trust in neither of the two parties nor in Congress in general, none of these scenarios can be dismissed out of hand.
- The Republican party is broken. The hijacking of it by the kkk types, over 50 years ago was the start of the downwards spiral.