With the 2012 presidential elections coming in as a clear victory for the Democratic Party, Republicans leaders have felt like they have been eating large portions of crow. Republicans like Mitch McConnell declared that their number one goal was defeating him in this election, only to see the President win a victory of 332 to 206 in the Electoral College. This is the fourth out of the last five presidential elections that the Democratic Party has won the popular vote and Republican expectations were crushed by the reality that they lost all but one swing state. As a result look for a circular firing squad to form shortly, if it hasn't already begun. The media has universally declared that a civil war within the Republican Party may soon be underway, something that was caused by rise of the Tea Party thumbing its nose at establishment Republicans, and was only a matter of time.Without drawing into the obvious conclusion that the in fighting will be between Moderates vs. Conservatives, there are several scenarios of Republican groups that maybe at each others throats.
Romney was too conservative, vs. Romney was too liberal.
Immediately after the election a war of words broke out among the Republican Party over what went wrong for the Romney campaign. While nearly all agreed that the Republican Party is no longer competitive in several demographics – young voters, minorities, single women – the question remains, how does the party win them back? Perhaps the group with the most blame for Republican losses last month was the Tea Party. You could see this during the primary campaign as Mitt Romney, a very successful moderate Republican, was forced to take a hard line approach on issues like immigration and the deficit. The reason he was forced to do this was due to the Tea Party and its search for candidates with ideological purity. Instead of focusing on his successes in office, Mitt Romney was forced to renounce his years as governor of Massachusetts, and declare that for every ten dollars in spending cuts, he would not raise one dollar in new taxes. Turning to the hard right during the primaries helped defeat fringe favorites such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum; yet it did no favors for a Romney campaign that now had to move back to the center to appeal to all of America in order to defeat President Obama. Even before the election, there were calls that the Republican Party had moved to far to the right, as Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, ‘We’re not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.’ While this maybe one opinion, look for the opposite view to be more prominent among the Republican base. “Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots,” declared immediately after the election was called for Obama, that Romney lost because he was ‘a weak moderate candidate, hand-picked by the Beltway elites and country-club establishment wing of the Republican Party. The presidential loss is unequivocally on them.’
Over a month after the election, the signs of fractures are even more glaring, Prominent conservative Senator Jim DeMint announced that he would be leaving his seat in the Senate to take over the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. On the opposite side, three Republican Senators who signed Grover Norquist’s famed anti-tax pledge along with several House of Representative members, have said that they would not raising taxes as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.In the debt ceiling fight Speaker of the House Boehner removed 4 far-right Republicans from their committee seats for refusing to toe the party leaderships line. These Republicans were sticking to their guns on the issue of the fiscal cliff when polling said that the majority of Americans would blame Republicans if the crisis was not solved, and Speaker Boehner was looking to make a deal. Instead the deal that Speaker Boehner was looking to offer to the President could not get past the Republican controlled House of Representatives. As a result House Republicans had to settle for a deal that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans, extended unemployment benefits and made no significant spending cuts.
The wealthy vs. Evangelical Christians
Election night had to be a terrible night for Republican strategist Karl Rove and his friends. Architect of the George W. Bush presidency, Rove has taken the position of chief fundraiser for the Republican Party. In the same way that Rupert Murdoch uses Fox News to rile up the Republican base, Rove uses conservative billionaires to fund attack ads. This election outside spending by Republican affiliated organizations added up to about $390 million dollars with the only results being a landslide by President Obama as well as Democratic gains in the House and Senate. These wealthy donors are not going to immediately stop donating huge amounts of money, but they will want a Republican Party that is more appealing to all voters. Many conservatives look at the demographics of voters under 40 and realize in order to achieve this; it requires ceding ground on gay marriage, as well as finding compromise in certain cases of abortion. When it comes to Evangelical Christians this is violating their core beliefs. For many evangelicals, social issues and culture wars are far more important then any form of economic policy. Neither side is likely to give ground, as wealthy Americans are going to cautious of funding candidates like Joe Walsh or Richard Mourdock, while many evangelical Christians didn't disagree with their controversial statements. Many Evangelical Christians hold the belief that human life begins at contraception, and that any abortion – even the abortion of a pregnancy caused by rape, is literally murder. It is needless to say, that Evangelicals will fight against any candidate or any attempt to loosen the Republican Party’s position of abortion, no matter what the financial cost to the party.
What civil war?
Of course there is also a strong possibility that the Republican Party is so entrenched in belief of self-superiority that they will not realize that they are being beaten and adapt accordingly. The signs that this is the case are everywhere as conservatives have seemingly put the blame for losing the election on everything but their own agenda. Karl Rove blamed Obama for ‘suppressing the vote’; Republican Senator Ron Johnson said that Romney lost due to “an uninformed electorate”; and Bill O’Reilly said that Obama voters “comprised of individuals who ‘want stuff.’ It doesn't stop at the individual level; the vice-president of the Family Research Counsel said Wednesday that, “civil disobedience may be necessary to prevent same sex marriages” Granted the next national elections are years away, but this does not seem to be a party that is heading down the road of civil war after political self-reflection. Never mind that it was just this last election cycle that the Republican Party declared Senators Bob Bennet and Richard Lugar insufficiently conservative and tried to replace them with Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. As party elite Ed Rodgers told Time Magazine, “For four years, Republican politicians have portrayed Obama as a dangerous radical and fought him full time. It’s going to be hard to cut deals with him to solve problems like the looming fiscal cliff without alienating Republican voters who believed what they said.” Despite the fact that Republicans badly lost Tuesday’s national election using exactly that strategy, don’t be surprised if they become more conservative, more ideologically pure, and less inclusive.