Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is the Republican Party committing suicide on purpose?

Here’s a bit of a post from Washington Monthly about the continuing purge that is going on within the Republican Party.

South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis has been bounced from his longtime seat by a well-known prosecutor after challengers questioned the Republican's conservative credentials.

Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg won the GOP primary runoff Tuesday.

Inglis has always scored well with conservative organizations. But his challengers this year painted him as a liberal who voted for Wall Street and banking bailouts in 2008.

It wasn't close -- despite having represented the area for 12 years, Inglis lost by a ridiculous 42-point margin, 71% to 29%.
Given the one-sided nature of the results, it's tempting to think Inglis must have been caught up in some devastating scandal, since incumbents in good standing just don't get humiliated like this often. But Inglis' only crime was taking on a moderate, pragmatic tone, which led Republicans to revolt.

I emphasize "tone" because Inglis had a very conservative voting record, and scored well among the far-right organizations that grade lawmakers on their positions.

But Inglis expressed a willingness to work with Democrats on energy policy; he urged his constituents not to take Glenn Beck too seriously; he thought Joe Wilson was wrong to heckle the president during a national address; and he said his main focus as a lawmaker was to find "solutions" to problems. Last year, Inglis said the Republican Party has a chance to "lose the stinking rot of self-righteousness" and "to understand we are all in need of some grace."

Inglis' humiliating defeat also sends a message to Republican lawmakers who might consider constructive lawmaking: don't do it. The GOP base doesn't want responsible leaders who'll try to solve problems; it wants hard-right ideologues.

Wow, that’s a pretty big margin to lose by for anyone. But when it happens to someone with a pretty solid conservative voting record and who has served in the same district for 12 years, that’s pretty amazing. You would think that a huge defeat of someone like that would mean the person was engaged in a huge scandal. But no. This guy made noises that he might actually think like a reasonable person at times. And the hardcore Republican primary voters do not like that. They will punish anyone who might actually think about working with the enemy or might criticize their own side.

So, the question becomes, why are the Republican voters doing this? Do they not realize what they are doing? They are marginalizing their own political party. They may become “ideologically pure,” but, except for a few elections in places like Kentucky and South Carolina, this is not going to win general elections.

Do these voters care? Or do not realize what they are doing? My vote is the latter. I firmly believe that these people really believe that they represent mainstream thinking. Anyone who doesn’t think and act exactly like they do (at least in public) is obviously an extremist. They truly believe that their viewpoints are normal and mainstream, and nominating people who express those same viewpoints will obviously lead to electoral success.

This is the same point of view, of course, that leads these same people to believe that any time a Democrat wins an election, it must have been “stolen,” probably by ACORN. Any time a Democrat wins, democracy has somehow been usurped. And this thinking, then, leads to some politicians such as Sharron Angle in Nevada to declare that elections where their side doesn’t win should obviously be overturned by “Second Amendment Rights”, i.e., armed force.

I truly hope that a large majority of non-insane people end up voting in November. I think we can concede that tea partier extraordinaire Rand Paul in Kentucky will become a U.S. senator, even with all the insane things he was spouting off before the national Republicans told him to knock it off if he really wants to be elected. But I am hopeful that Harry Reid will come back from the dead and beat Sharron Angle. If the state of Nevada can actually elect someone like Angle, no matter how conservative the state, then I have a difficult time believing that the Democrats will be able to hold on to their precarious position in the face of the overwhelming stupidity of the American public.

I am usually a very cynical and negative person. But I do hold enough idealism to think that America, that great shining beacon of democracy that I learned about in grade school, will reject extremism. I truly do not mind if Republicans are elected to office. A government run exclusively by a single party, on either side of the political spectrum, is not a good thing. In fact, very bad things can happen. But I will temper my statement by the fact that the Republicans need to be sane and be willing to work with the other side for the common good of the country. Unfortunately, sane Republicans seem to be a vanishing species.

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