First, Cantor lost… and lost big. Naturally, it’s Obama’s fault. It can’t possibly be because he’s buddy-buddy with the NSA and the idea of spying on everyone, or because he’s part of the worst House leadership in recorded history. He spent something like ten times as much as his Tea Party opponent, and still lost. As much as I object to the gutting of campaign spending laws, Eric Cantor’s primary loss is proof positive that money is not the defining force in elections. It can make things difficult, or shift things slightly, but it cannot (yet) buy the election. (Give Thomas and Scalia some time, though; they’re working on it.) This of course means that we on the left have little excuse; if we lose in November, it’s because we didn’t get out and vote, not because the mean old GOP outspent us.
Second, right next door to the family ranch here in the Treasure State, Idaho’s Republican convention collapsed into utter chaos and ruin just the other day. The conflict between the Tea Party wing, the libertarian wing, and the establishment of the GOP became so acrimonious that the whole thing collapsed under its own failure-riddled weight, with nothing to show for it. No election for chairman, no platform, nothing. This is a state where the GOP holds virtually every office possible, outside a small minority in the legislature. I mean, seriously, folks. If you can’t run a conservative party convention in a so-red-it-almost-drops-off-the-visible-spectrum bastion like Idaho, you’ve got a real problem.
These are just symptoms of a larger malady afflicting the right these days. The ultimate issue is, in my not so humble opinion, two-fold. Number one: the Tea Party is no longer under the control of the establishment right. It has become its own beast, unresponsive to the controls of its former masters and incapable of understanding the realities of governance and consensus-building. Like most young creatures, it wants what it wants, and it will kick, scream, bite, and wail until it gets it… at which point it will find a new desire and repeat the process. Unlike most child-creatures, it has no authority figure over it to tell it “no” and reign in its excesses for the good of itself and others. It will continue to rampage its way across the electoral chances of the GOP, demanding ever-higher standards of “conservatism” out of politicians on the right, standards which will become ever more contradictory and ever more out of touch with reality and the structure of our nation. This will inevitably push the right even further into looney-land, with inevitable effects on how elections will turn out, due to the greater modern effect of independents and undecideds. Personally, I’m ambivalent about that; I’d like to see less right-wingers elected, but I also know that our nation needs at least two functioning parties, not one and a broken joke.
Number two: Neither the Tea Party nor the Republicans know what to do with power once they have it. Sure, they can make things happen; they can push through bills, they can form committees, they can hold hearings, but they don’t know how to really GOVERN. They are elementally incapable of acting to deal with the real problems facing our nation, instead preferring to manufacture solutions to problems that only exist in the mind of the right and to attempt to score political points while obstructing actual governance. Just look at how Boehner and Cantor have run this GOP-dominated House, and you can’t miss this fact. On both a state and federal level, they continue to push for measures that have been slapped down repeatedly by federal courts, even by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court. They don’t seem to grasp that the Constitution is a real check on their ability to please their anti-gay, anti-women, anti-brown-people constituency. This is especially true of the Tea Party, who seem to only have a rough idea of the Constitution outside of the latter half of the 2nd Amendment and the whole of the 10th. This, of course, never stops them from declaring anything they dislike (which includes anything said or done by Barack Obama) unconstitutional and impeachment-worthy.
These problems are difficult and relatively insoluble without some seriously deep housecleaning and soul-searching from the entities on the right side of our political spectrum. It will also require some substantial statesmanship on the part of one or more persons on that side, leadership that can lead them out of the ever-deepening quagmire into which they’re wandering. Personally, I’m not holding my breath.
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