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Week in Review: The Conflicted GOP and its Potential Future

February 28, 2013

Daniel Palino, ’15

Chris Christie is undeniably a rising star within the Republican Party. He delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Republican National Convention, is generally favorable with the public, and is considered a contender for the 2016 Presidential election. So then why, exactly, was the New Jersey governor not invited to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference, much less to speak at it? Many say it is because of Christie’s appraisal of President Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy, which may have swung some public favor toward the incumbent right before the 2012 election. Similarly, Christie also lambasted several Republicans for inaction towards relief for victims of the same super storm.  Christie’s snub, among other examples, precisely illustrates the issue of the divided Republican Party. While some members of the GOP are willing to work with Democrats to create moderate solutions and bipartisanship in general, others fight such compromise, leaving themselves isolated from both the opposing party and fellow Republicans alike.

This inner strife is one of the main reasons the Republican Party is currently the minority party; many argue that it will remain that way for years to come unless common ground can be found between the warring factions of Tea Party conservatism and moderate Republicanism. Further demonstrating the fragmented state of the GOP is a recently distributed Tea Party newsletter that depicted Republican political consultant Karl Rove as a Nazi. The offensive image is in response to Rove’s new group, the Conservative Victory Project, which is attempting to help more centrist Republicans win primaries, while at the same time distancing itself from far-right reactionaries. While Rove’s focus may prove beneficial in future elections, it has caused much conflict within the troubled party as hard-line conservatives see this as an attempt to “crush the Tea Party movement.” The Tea Party letter is perfect example of the civil war that currently divides Republicans, creating an atmosphere of distrust and noncooperation within an institution that is supposed to be working together towards a common goal.

Giving more context to this political strife is the Economist’s article “The Politics of Purity”. Within the article, the different factions of the Republican Party are identified, including religious conservatives, anti-government insurgents, and those who promote “the establishment”. While diversity in politics is always important, the issue lies at how many of these ideals contradict one another. This contradiction leaves little common ground within the party and makes choosing a presidential nominee who pleases all constituents virtually impossible. A similar problem was extremely prevalent during the Republican primaries in the most recent election; many of the candidates only appealed to specific groups, depriving the party of a strong front-runner  Contenders such as Governor Rick Perry and Senator Rick Santorum were simply unelectable, and attempts to promote an electable candidate were viewed as compromises that lost all conservative value. Once a nominee was found, many conservatives were lukewarm to his campaign and supported him only because he was an alternative to President Obama.

Many Republicans understand this conflict and are attempting to remedy it for future elections, which is exactly where the party’s contention lies. While the compromise-ready moderates and far-right traditionalists waged war in Washington, the Democrats kept control of the White House and increased their Senate majority. Such an outcome is bound to occur again unless the GOP can make peace with itself and deliver a message that can appeal to all. Whether or not this transformation can occur within the next four years is debatable, but the simple truth is that it must if Republicans wish to become the majority party once again.

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