For anyone patient enough to consistently follow national politics, you’ve by now heard of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s resignation. And for anyone masochistic enough to enjoy further delving into the repercussions of such things in politics, you’ve by now heard the clear analysis of said resignation:
The Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war.
Boehner’s resignation at the end of October is yet another casualty in the battle between the old Republican party of Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan, and the newer, hardline conservative movement.
This strife has been thoroughly detailed in places like Politico’s Sept. 25 article, “The GOP civil war infects 2016.” The article details that “Movement leaders and activists see the downfall of the House speaker as a coup that’s been years in the making — and one whose momentum they hope will now yield not only more rigidly conservative leadership in Congress but also a Republican presidential nominee who is one of their own. The GOP civil war, in other words, is raging as much on the 2016 stage as it is in Washington.”
This new extremely conservative push in the Republican Party is less willing than leaders like Boehner, or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to compromise with Democrats like President Barack Obama to pass legislature.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a presidential candidate, is one of the staunchest social conservatives in the public eye right now, and he is well known (and that’s not a good thing) for his instrumental role in bringing about the damaging 2013 government shutdown trying to strip money from Obamacare, as detailed in Bloomberg Politics on Sept. 8.
Hardline conservatives like him are at it again, threatening another looming shutdown over federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
The Kansas City Star published an article Sept. 28, “Hard-line conservatives to GOP field: Defy us at your own peril,” that dives into the growing unrest in the Grand Old Party. “The Republican Party’s conservative wing,” the article says, “pumped up by House Speaker John Boehner’s stepping down, is warning the 2016 presidential candidates that defying its wishes will come at their peril.”
The Star piece also revealed thinking of “embrace our uncompromising stance against abortion rights and gay marriage, among other priorities, even if doing so risks a federal government shutdown,” and that Boehner’s decision “revealed a deep divide within the GOP that raises questions about the party’s ability to unite behind one candidate next spring.”
So how does this fracturing GOP hurt public discourse and public policy?
Well, catering to these energetic and staunch conservatives means that much of the GOP presidential field has had to dive headfirst into lunacy.
The fact that Donald Trump has led in the polls for so long is evidence point A through Z, but even besides that, Republican voters should be very worried.
Ben Carson, who is making a huge surge in the polls (now even competitive with Mr. Trump), once said of evolution: “I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary.” And by adversary, he was referring to the devil. Carson, a creationist, called the Big Bang a “fairy tale,” encouraged by “high-faluting” scientists.
Carson, a neurosurgeon mind you, has also run into some trouble on the subject of vaccinations. He’s not alone in this, as detailed by Politico’s article “Vaccine phobia infects GOP race,” which shows Carson, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Trump all on the wrong, and quite frankly, shocking side of the vaccination “debate.”
Carson, quoted in Roger Simon’s article “Can Carson stir pot of bigotry without getting burned?” has said that Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and that he does not want a Muslim in the White House because Muslims cannot be trusted by not fitting “within the realm of America.”
Simon needles out a point damning the state of the Republican Party at the moment: “(Carson’s) assertions were bigoted and ignorant, but bigoted and ignorant have been playing well in the Republican Party this year.”
Jeb Bush said that the U.S. “should not have a multicultural society,” Trump said illegal Mexican immigrants are bringing drugs, crime and rape past our border, and Rush Limbaugh even said, “Don’t know how long it’s going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda.” OK, so Limbaugh isn’t so important, I just wanted to point out that he said that for fun.
This formerly respectable party preaching fiscal responsibility and family values is, before our very eyes, being corrupted and disfigured into an anti-science, anti-women, anti-seemingly everything party of fear and extremism. And voters of the GOP should be sick. National elections still run toward the moderate voter – honestly, you cannot win with one of these insane people.
The Republican Party is broken. And it’s going to take a hell of a lot of political therapy and citizen participation for the voters to fix it. Because the politicians aren’t.
Jonathan Greig is a senior in anthropology.