Thursday, May 21, 2009

Letter From the Editor: A Malignant Cancer Is Running Unchecked in the GOP

After Suffering Back-to-Back Major Defeats at the Ballot Box, the GOP Is Rapidly Imploding as Hard-Line Conservatives Openly Attack Anyone and Everyone Who Do Not Conform to Their Right-Wing Worldview in an All-Out Attempt to Drive Out the GOP's Few Remaining Moderates and Turn the Party Even Farther Rightward

New GOP Chair Blasts Daschle Tax Trouble(ABC News) by mashget.

Is Republican National Chairman Michael Steele presiding over a dying party? Recent events strongly suggest that the GOP is rapidly imploding, with conservatives appearing hell-bent on ridding the party of its last remaining moderates and taking it even farther to the right -- further alienating the GOP from a growing majority of voters. This was made evident by the passage by the Republican National Committee of a conservative-backed resolution denouncing Democrats for "pushing our country toward socialism." Steele, himself under unrelenting attack by conservatives since he was elected party chairman in January, last week bowed to their demands -- under threat of a no-confidence vote -- to give up control of the party's funds. (Photo courtesy ABC News)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. Thursday, May 21, 2009)


It is not unusual for a political party that's suffered a major defeat at the polls to engage in some deep soul-searching. After all, it happened to the Democrats after they lost control of Congress in 1994 -- ending their grip on the House of Representative after 40 years -- and of the White House in 2000 after Bill Clinton's scandal-plagued second term.

But what's happened to the Republicans in the more than six months since it lost the White House and saw its already minority ranks in Congress shrink even further has stunned even the most jaded political observers.

In an attack that is without precedent, former Vice President Dick Cheney -- already under fire for making unrelenting verbal assaults on the Obama administration's policies in the "war on terror" -- challenged the loyalty to the GOP of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is one of scores of moderate Republicans who endorsed President Obama during the 2008 campaign.

Appearing on the CBS Sunday talk show "Face the Nation" on May 10, Cheney accused Powell -- a retired four-star Army general who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and who brilliantly executed the 1991 Gulf War -- of turning his back on the Republican Party by endorsing Obama.


The former vice president even went so far as to say that right-wing radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh -- who has been relentless in his attacks on Obama, not only on his performance as president but also personally -- is a more loyal party member than Powell. "If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh," he told a surprised "Face the Nation" host Bob Scheiffer.

Powell's backing of Obama wasn't the only cause for Cheney's wrath. The former secretary of state said recently that it was imperative for Republicans to move back toward the political center if they had any hope of once again becoming a majority party in a demographically changing America.

Those are fighting words to the conservatives who control the party with an iron fist -- and have no intention of loosening their grip. But only 21 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans, according to recent analyses of state-by-state voter registration records and opinion polls. Democrats in recent years have gained in almost every population demographic -- leaving the GOP a party dominated by conservative white males.

Powell has said that Limbaugh's often-incendiary right-wing rhetoric is "polarizing" and is damaging to the party's long-term electoral appeal.

Limbaugh fired back that Powell, as far as he was concerned, was “just another liberal” and told his listeners that since Powell had endorsed the Democrat Obama, he should "go all the way" and switch parties -- a stance of which Cheney concurred. "I assumed . . .[that] Colin had already left the party," the former vice president said. "I didn't know he was still a Republican."


With friends like Dick Cheney, who needs enemies? But the acid remarks by Cheney, Limbaugh and other Republicans toward Powell pale in comparison to their reaction to Senator Arlen Specter's stunning defection to the Democrats.

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, in a fundraising email, told Republicans that Specter's switch put Democrats in an "almost unstoppable position to pass Obama's destructive agenda . . .Arlen Specter has put his loyalty to his own political career above his duty to his state and nation."

Limbaugh was even more pointed. On his April 28 broadcast, the right-wing talk-show host not only told Specter "Good riddance," but also urged him to take his fellow Senator John McCain "and his [increasingly outspoken] daughter [Meghan] with you!"

Limbaugh has never made any secret of his dislike for the Arizona senator -- and Meghan McCain has made no secret of her disdain for Limbaugh and other party conservatives, particularly on such hot-button social issues as abortion and same-gender marriage, even going so far as to say that the GOP's right-wing "old guard" is "scared [bleep]less" with the social liberalism held by younger voters in a speech at the recent annual conference of the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans.

And how can one interpret Steele's decision last week to sign a secret pact with party conservatives agreeing to controls and restraints on how he spends millions of dollars in party funds and contracts as being anything other than a capitulation? For decades, the RNC chairman enjoyed almost unrestricted authority over how to spend the party's funds.

The so-called "good governance" agreement imposes restrictions on Steele's authority to conduct the Republican National Committee's business -- including contracts, fees for legal work and other expenditures. Steele agreed to cede some of his authority after several conservative committee members threatened a "no-confidence" vote against the chairman at Wednesday's special RNC meeting in Washington.


To add insult to injury for Steele, the agreement names Jay Banning, a 33-year committee member -- whom Steele fired in April -- an "on-call" adviser to RNC treasurer Randy Pullen, a conservative who heads the state GOP in Arizona.

The ugly truth is, Steele has been under relentless attack from a group of party conservatives who have questioned his every move ever since he was elected the party's first-ever African-American national chairman in January. Nearly all of those same conservatives who have challenged his authority are white -- and fiercely opposed his candidacy for the post.

It is difficult to avoid coming to the conclusion that this unprecedented attack on a newly-elected party chairman's authority to conduct party business -- not to mention the equally unprecedented virulence of the attacks on President Obama's authority to conduct the nation's business -- isn't motivated to some degree by animosity because both the president and the leader of the opposition party are black.

That certainly will not be helpful in any attempt by the GOP to broaden its electoral appeal to African-American, Latino and Asian voters, who voted overwhelmingly for the Democrats in the last election -- and who will become a more and more significant proportion of the electorate in the years to come.


Indeed, an effort by several prominent Republicans, including former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia and former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, to broaden the party's voter appeal has come under withering fire by conservatives for not bringing up abortion, same-gender marriage and gun control and for seeking to distance the party from its conservative base.

The effort, dubbed a "listening tour" by the media, was dismissed by former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas as treating socially conservative "values voters as if they were embarrassing distant cousins who are allowed to come to the family gatherings a couple of times a year, but aren't expected to be seen beyond that."

Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council, branded the campaign as being "devoid of the [conservative social] values that once caused voters to identify with the party."

And therein lies the GOP's problem: The party has moved so far to the right that it's now in danger of degenerating into a fringe party, as its ever-farther rightward direction turns off more and more moderate voters -- many of whom are now either independents or Democrats. Liberals were driven out of the party almost 40 years ago. Now the moderates are leaving.

With only 21 percent -- just over a fifth of the electorate -- now identifying themselves as Republicans, the party's right wing is deluding itself if it thinks that the GOP will regain a dominant position on the American political scene by staying far to the right of the American political mainstream. They have become a cancer on the party of Lincoln -- a cancer that is rapidly becoming malignant.

Skeeter Sanders
Editor & Publisher
The 'Skeeter Bites Report

# # #

Volume IV, Number 40
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


Sphere: Related Content