Sunday, December 5, 2010

Can Moderate Republicans Survive?

This article is about the potential primary struggle that the incumbent senator from Texas may face if she decides to run again. Despite a very conservative voting record she has lost the support of the Texas Tea Party which will run a candidate against her. A similar thing happened in Arizona to John McCain. The incumbent senator, with a strong conservative record, was not conservative enough for the Tea Party and McCain was forced to move much further to the right in order to win the primary. This demonstrates that even if the Tea Party is not successful in putting one of their own into office they can force moderate republicans to veer further to the right and exacerbate the polarization that we are experiencing in our politics.

The GOP has always had a more radical wing in its party. Their impact, historically, has been on the battle for ideas. They have funded conservative think tanks, which have had an influence on how people think about things like deregulation and climate policy, but they have not been that successful at the polls. That is, until now. A lot of money has been contributed to the organization of the Tea Party movement by ultra conservative contributors like the Koch brothers. The movement has also been supported by media outlets such as Fox, and conservative talk radio hosts. The result is the coupling of conservative ideology with a grass roots movement that has created political energy and brought out the vote. In a very real sense, conservatives have been successful in co-opting much of the populist movement which has historically been associated with the Democratic Party. This will force GOP candidates and incumbents to adhere more closely to the dominant ideology in the party. There does not seem to be anything like this in the Democratic Party. More conservative democrats are not likely to face primary challenges and the party may continue to have difficulties in battling a more ideologically disciplined GOP.

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