Republicans decide their future in 2014

 
Tea Party backers in Washington (13 October 2013) Tea Party backers - who are known for sporting 18th Century costume out of reverence for the early American patriots - thrive on a sense of persecution

Republicans should be going into 2014 with some trepidation.

It is not the size of the immediate prize in November's elections. Few think they can win the Senate, and the risk of losing the House isn't that great.

But this year could define something more important than seats, more important even than the party's direction: its brand image, its flavour, its mouthfeel, how Americans see the elephant in the room.

The Tea Party was, without any doubt, the force that gave back the Republicans their spirit after 2008 and "shellacked" President Barack Obama and the Democrats in the 2010 mid-terms. The question this year is whether it will be a drag on the party's fortunes.

Hispanic voters

The Republican establishment in Congress saw its already low reputation plummet after the government shutdown in October.

In the view of some who consider themselves older and wiser, this shutdown was a craven cave-in to the immature class of 2012 - an exercise in pointlessness that they knew they couldn't sustain.

So in the dying days of last year they did a modest budget deal, against Tea Party wishes.

It may not be the last.

There is a lot of talk that John Boehner will do some sort of a deal on immigration.

That would be hugely important - immigration is the canary in the coal mine for Republican seriousness about change.

Perhaps the Republicans could win the rapidly-growing Hispanic vote without immigration reform. And perhaps they can win the White House without more Hispanic voters.

Perhaps. But you will have to explain carefully how before I'll believe it.

A fight-back?

There is another important sign too.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks to reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington 10 December 2013 The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, has his own Tea Party challenger

We are beginning to see sitting Tea Party candidates challenged by establishment ones - a fight-back.

It's hesitant, and careful - one strategist told me he wanted only to prevent candidates who would be seen as half-mad by the media, who talked about witchcraft or rape being part of God's plan.

Others are more adamant that they have to take back their party before they can take back the country.

Of course none of this will daunt the Tea Party - their challenge to the establishment is still far more open and forthright. There will be battles against the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, and in Mississippi, where Thad Cochran has been in the Senate for 34 years.

But if the Republican establishment has dithered before striking back it is because it understands the enormity of the task.

It is important to note that this is not yet an outright ideological struggle - nearly all Republicans are low-tax, anti-big government, anti-abortion, anti-gun control. On immigration and gay marriage there are some more shades of grey.

The Republican fight-back so far is more about tone and strategy than ideology.

Are they just the party of loud and emphatic "No"? Of furious and righteous resistance to Mr Obama?

Or do they sound more positive, offer alternatives, some that may include doing deals with the accursed enemy?

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The Tea Party view of the world may be a lot closer to the average Republican on the street in the Mid-West and the South, than to the party's leaders on the Hill”

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It strikes me how many Tea Party people are now a little shy of the label. Time after time I've heard them say, "I'm a Goldwater Republican."

They may worship at the shrine of St Ronnie, but it is Barry Goldwater, the failed 1964 presidential candidate, who is their martyr.

And these people like their martyrs - they thrive on a sense of persecution, of the City on the Hill shrinking around them, lapped by alien waters.

It's very Southern, very founding fathers. It is also very popular in the places where Republicans do well.

Beyond the Hill

This is an important point - from British newspapers to Republicans on Capitol Hill there is a tendency to see the Tea Party faction as a weird bunch of extremists who have wrested control of their party from more normal members.

On a visit to Texas during the government shutdown, I was struck by how many ordinary people supported it, and relished what they saw as a display of backbone.

The Tea Party view of the world may be a lot closer to that of the average Republican on the street in the Midwest and the South than it is to that of the party's leaders on the Hill.

It is a particular manifestation of a conservative revolt against a new status quo that began in the late 1950s.

The trouble is that the strategy that won the South for Republicans for a generation is now seen by many as a road to electoral ruin.

Ironically, the attitude of many of the participants also has roots in the 1960s - they're romantic rebels who are instinctively anti-establishment and suspicious of authority. They are not easy to cow, or beat.

The Republican Civil War has not yet begun in earnest, and may take a while in the making. But these mid-terms and the primaries will be powerfully important for those vying for the presidential nomination in 2016.

 
Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 126.

    The key notion: "This is an important point - from British newspapers to Republicans on Capitol Hill there is a tendency to see the Tea Party faction as a weird bunch of extremists who have wrested control of their party from more normal members." Will Republicans take on the tea party or be challenged from the right? A no-brainer to play out in November regardless of the scenario.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 125.

    @96

    I'd rather fold up your stars and bars of treason and slavery, stomp on it then burn it while cursing those who love it. I'd, secession being already found illegal, like to expel any state trying to violate the Constitution by implementing racist, religious or sexist laws. Those complaining about federal help to the poor should receive absolutely no help or jobs. Sic semper hypocritis.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 124.

    @95. The Tea Party is an astroturf faction, beholden to rich supporters like the Koch Bos. and industry, as well as to neo-Confederates, extreme libertarians and "Christian" Dominionist radicals.

    When a majority of Americans [65 -75%] support unemployment, universal healthcare, gay marriage, family planning, etc. and they oppose it, they may be grass roots but in a tiny field.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 123.

    Despite the 18th Century dress, the fundamentalist Christian core of the GOP regard the Puritans as "real founding fathers." So you have their claims the US was established as a "Christian country" with freedom of religion for "Christians" based on the Bible, so their hostility to separation of Church and state, and desire for OT Shariah laws. We dumped the originals, now get rid of them.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 122.

    @112.margaret howard,
    I was thinking the same thing.But just to mention,there were many free people of color, as well.And some of them were slave owners.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 121.

    118 Magic

    Mandela said
    "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
    _
    Too bad Mandela never practiced that in his dealings and the major disrespect he shwed the U.S U.K and Israel
    ==

    Maybe that's because they speak a language foreign to the rest of the world these days?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 120.

    USA lost some people and UK lost people and landmarks this week

    http://news.yahoo.com/landmarks-damaged-storms-cameron-suspects-climate-change-155849833.html

    Since 2000, ice melting has quadrupled- so what global event happened in 2000 to change such?

    USA shipped majority of our manufacturing to China factories which have no regulations

    More reason to bring manufacturing back to USA

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 119.

    Sieu: shot dead

    Same thing with the mentally ill lady in front of the White House-
    she did not have a gun although her vehicle was considered a weapon

    British case went way it did likely because of unreliable witnesses

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-25197847

    The officers said they thought he was pointing a gun at them
    and no reliable witnesses or evidence to dispute this

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 118.

    ref #115
    Take it from Mandela who said
    "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
    _______
    Too bad Mandela never practiced that in his dealings and the major disrespect he shwed the U.S U.K and Israel

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 117.

    Probabaly the biggest division in American politics today between the parties is illegal immigration

    Democrats do not consider illegal immigration to be a crime
    as shown by how they are rewarding law degrees to foreigners who come to USA illegally

    Republicans and Independents do consider illegal immigration to be a crime

    Now Democrats want to legalize illegal immigration

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 116.

    Here's a language I don't understand.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25657949

    The best case Brit cops can make is the fleeing suspect threw his gun out the window of a car before he was apprehended and shot dead while unarmed.But it's illegal for Brits to kill an armed intruder in their own home.That's not my language either.Nothing changed since Stephen Lawrence.Institutional racism.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 115.

    Marg: So why should new immigrants?

    Take it from Mandela who said
    "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

    Illegal immigrants are not talking in Americans' language

    We don't understand what they are saying but what we do understand is they don't respect us enough to learn our language

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 114.

    ref #111
    if agreed on full employ in equal partnership
    --
    Your idea stifles innovation. Innovation comes from capitalism and those who bear the risks and come up with the idea deserve the rewards. So no not everyone should get an equal share. I don't begrudge Bill Gates or the Kochs their money; they earned it. I do resent people like Zutuni Obama or OWS who says gimmee

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 113.

    Marg: Except of course the millions of African slaves

    I said majority, not that they were all white
    (it was 90% white, 10% black)

    M: they still didn't get the vote for hundreds of years

    Black men got to vote before white women did

    Today we have a black man as President but have never had a woman as such

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 112.

    105 Lucy


    "Majority of our immigrants in past were white. ..past immigrants assimilated to America"


    Except of course the millions of African slaves shipped in to serve those whites and have been there for just as long

    Whether they wanted to assimilate or not, they still didn't get the vote for hundreds of years

    So why should new immigrants to consider themselves Americans?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 111.

    MagicKirin@108
    "small government"

    'Funny thing is', if agreed on full employ in equal partnership, much of 'big government' would disappear: equal incomes of children funding 'extras' in schooling, the incomes of all funding politics & healthcare, the incomes of elderly funding 'extras'. Policing made a small part of healthcare (rescue of occasional casualties), military targeted on planetesimals

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 110.

    Sieu: I don't think we'll have to worry about fighting the Brits or Germans again

    Today Britain and Germany are two of our good friends

    We get some immigrants from there but its moderate as
    we are not getting an influx of immigrants from our allies

    Our influx is from Mexico/South America, China and Muslims in Middle East whose countries pose threats to us

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 109.

    What the tea party is is the usual conservative ploy of the wealthy duping the ignorant who don't realize that the majority of government benefits is paid out to large corporations and high earners with tax subsidies and other giveaways only lawyers and accountants understand. Then it's spiced with religious and ethnic hoopla playing on prejudice. Mostly it's a pack of lies.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 108.

    ref #106
    The media has misreported (that includes you Mark) what the Tea Party stands for.

    It is for smaller goveremnt, 'lessspending. It has no agenda on social issue or foriegn policy

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 107.

    104 Lucy, I don't think we'll have to worry about fighting the Brits or Germans again. Brussels is doing a find job of that. Their weapons are demographic and economic. The Bulgarians and Romanians have been added to the PIIGS and others like Croatia and Hungary in an all out assault. When it's over there will be new meaning to "the Ashes."

 

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