Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kevin Drum on the GOP Death Spiral

Kevin Drum christens the Republican Party the party of No Escape on Mother Jones.

Every party faces conflict between its center and its base, but the emergence of the tea party and the Fox News echo chamber has put this dynamic on steroids. Moving even to the moderate right, let alone to the center, is all but impossible for the GOP. Its base demands not just a border fence, but the repeal of the 14th Amendment; not just opposition to gun control, but rejection of universal background checks, which even the National Rifle Association used to support; not just skepticism about climate change, but insistence that global warming is a grand hoax perpetrated by liberals to subvert the free market.

This conflict between party and base entered uncharted territory earlier this month when Republicans literally couldn't find a single plausible candidate willing to be Speaker of the House. No one wanted to deal with the bomb-throwing antics of the reactionary wing of their own party. Even candidates who consider themselves tea partiers didn't think they could control a caucus dominated by tea partiers. Among Republicans, becoming Speaker is now considered a career death sentence.

It's hard to see any way out of this. If Republican candidates appeal to nativism, they lose the Hispanic vote. If they appeal to social conservatives, they lose the millennial vote. If they appeal to older white voters, they energize black voters and do the Democrats' grassroots organizing for them. And if they throw up their hands and rely on endless hysteria about Benghazi and Hillary Clinton's email server, the tea partiers will turn out in droves but they lose everyone else. In an era when the inmates are running the asylum, it's not just Obamacare bashing that's become a double-edged sword for Republicans. It's nearly everything they've relied on for the past three decades.

Increasingly, this is the GOP's true dilemma. It's not the party of no ideas; it's the party of no escape.

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