As the Republican Party careens its way toward the November mid-terms we are starting to see a third faction enter the party’s unholy civil war.
You are all familiar with the moderate Republican leadership led by Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy. McConnell has been known to collaborate with this group but only when he can extort a nice piece of pork for his district. Moderates would prefer to talk about restricting women’s reproductive rights, abolishing same sex marriage or restricting voters’ rights, but they are smart enough to understand that those issues are losers at the polls. They realize that the only way to move their agenda forward is by winning elections. So they try to find some balance between the radicals on the far right and their more clear headed members on the center right.
Next, we have the Tea Party Patriots led by Cruz, Bachman, Lee and Ghomert. Eric Cantor swims in this pool as well; especially when he sees an opportunity to make Boehner look bad. These folks want to see the long winding government train shortened to nothing more than a small engine and caboose. They are more than willing to blow up the train if they don’t get their way. They engage in inflammatory rhetoric that draws huge crowds but gets them little more than a sympathetic pat on the back at the loser’s after party. Their reckless actions have cost the party dearly. If not for these “patriots” the Republican Party might already hold the majority in the senate as well as the house.
We can now see the flickering spark of a third faction emerging. They are led by Rand Paul, a Tea Party Patriot who understands that calling Obama a mongrel might draw cheers but it won’t win elections. Paul is preaching a more optimistic message. He wants his party to be more inclusive…to build a bigger tent. Make no mistake, he wants a smaller government. He shares Romney’s view of the 47%, but he is smart enough to understand that expressing that view publically won’t get him the prize he covets most…the White House. So he preaches finding common ground to move the country forward. Sometimes his dark side slips out…like when he told Rachel Maddow that a business owner should be allowed to refuse to serve anyone seated at his counter that he sees fit. But his Tea Party credentials and more moderate tone are gaining traction within the party.
Given the large number of Democrat lawmakers who have announced their retirement, the president’s sinking popularity and the dissatisfaction with his signature piece of legislation Republicans have a real opportunity to increase their majority in the House AND re-take the senate.
Standing in their way is not so much their Democratic opponents but whether the three prongs of the Republican trident can unite behind one message that the voters will accept.