Republican Party seems as divided, angry as ever

The Republican Party seems as divided and angry as ever.
Associated Press
Jan 7, 2013

Infighting has penetrated the highest levels of the House GOP leadership. Long-standing geographic tensions have increased, pitting endangered Northeastern Republicans against their colleagues from other parts of the country. Enraged tea party leaders are threatening to knock off dozens of Republicans who supported a measure that raised taxes on the nation's highest earners.

"People are mad as hell. I'm right there with them," Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, said late last week, declaring that she has "no confidence" in the party her members typically support. Her remarks came after GOP lawmakers agreed to higher taxes but no broad spending cuts as part of a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff."

"Anybody that voted 'yes' in the House should be concerned" about primary challenges in 2014, she said.

At the same time, one of the GOP's most popular voices, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, blasted his party's "toxic internal politics" after House Republicans initially declined to approve disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy. He said it was "disgusting to watch" their actions and he faulted the GOP's most powerful elected official, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The GOP's internal struggles to figure out what it wants to be were painfully exposed after Mitt Romney's loss to President Barack Obama on Nov. 6, but they have exploded in recent days. The fallout could extend well beyond the party's ability to win policy battles on Capitol Hill. It could hamper Republicans as they examine how to regroup and attract new voters after a disheartening election season.

To a greater degree than the Democrats, the Republican Party has struggled with internal divisions for the past few years. But these latest clashes have seemed especially public and vicious.

"It's disappointing to see infighting in the party," said Ryan Williams, a Republican operative and former Romney aide. "It doesn't make us look like we're in a position to challenge the president and hold him accountable to the promises he made."

What's largely causing the dissension? A lack of a clear GOP leader with a single vision for the party.

Republicans haven't had a consistent standard-bearer since President George W. Bush left office in 2008 with the nation on the edge of a financial collapse. His departure, along with widespread economic concerns, gave rise to a tea party movement that infused the GOP's conservative base with energy. The tea party is credited with broad Republican gains in the 2010 congressional elections, but it's also blamed for the rising tension between the pragmatic and ideological wings of the party — discord that festers still.

It was much the same for Democrats in the late 1980s before Bill Clinton emerged to win the White House and shift his party to the political center.

2012 presidential nominee Romney never fully captured the hearts of his party's most passionate voters. But his tenure atop the party was short-lived; since Election Day, he's disappeared from the political world.

Those Republican leaders who remain engaged — Christie, Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus — are showing little sign of coming together.

Those on the GOP's deep bench of potential 2016 presidential contenders, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have begun staking out their own, sometimes conflicting ideas for the party.

Over the short term at least, the party's divisions probably will continue to be exposed.

Obama has outlined a second-term agenda focused on immigration and gun control; those are issues that would test Republican solidarity even in good times. Deep splits already exist between Republican pragmatists and the conservative base, who oppose any restrictions on guns or allowances for illegal immigrants.

It's unclear whether Obama can exploit the GOP fissures or whether the Republican dysfunction will hamper him. With Boehner unable to control his fractured caucus, the White House is left wondering how to deal with the House on any divisive issue.

Fiscal issues aren't going away. The federal government reached its borrowing limit last week, so Congress has about two months or three months to raise the debt ceiling or risk a default on federal debt. Massive defense and domestic spending cuts are set to take effect in late February. By late March, the current spending plan will end, raising the possibility of a government shutdown.

Frustrated conservative activists and GOP insiders hope that the continued focus on fiscal matters will help unite the factions as the party pushes for deep spending cuts. That fight also may highlight Democratic divisions because the party's liberal wing vehemently opposes any changes to Social Security or Medicare

"Whenever you lose the White House, the party's going to have ups and downs," said Republican strategist Ron Kaufman. "My guess is when the spending issues come up again, the Democrats' warts will start to show as well."

The GOP's fissures go beyond positions on issues. They also are geographical.

Once a strong voice in the party, moderate Republicans across the Northeast are nearly extinct. Many of those who remain were frustrated in recent days when Boehner temporarily blocked a vote on a disaster relief bill.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said campaign donors in the Northeast who give the GOP after the slight "should have their head examined."

Boehner, who just won a second term as speaker, quickly scheduled a vote on a narrower measure for Friday after the new Congress convened, and it rushed out a $9.7 billion measure to help pay flood insurance claims.

Weary Republican strategists are trying to be hopeful about the GOP's path ahead, and liken the current situation to party's struggles after Obama's 2008 election. At the time, some pundits questioned the viability of the Republican Party. But it came roaring back two years later, thanks largely to the tea party.

"If we have learned anything from the fiscal cliff fiasco, conservatives discovered we need to stand firm, and stand together, on our principles from beginning to end," said Republican strategist Alice Stewart. "It's frustrating to see the GOP drop the ball and turn a position of true compromise into total surrender. The Democrats succeeded in their strategy of divide and conquer."



John Harville

Do you not understand the 'free' government cheese came from farm subsidies? Have you ever wondered why food stamps are pare of the Farm Bill?


John Harville writes:

"The Right wants to return to the 'original' as it existed in 1787...but it was so perfect it needed 10 amendments to get ratified..."

Which means what?

John Harville

@Contango... Which means that the Right espouses the Constitution and what the 'Founders' intended, meant, what motivated their actions and MANY claim we should return to the original 'sacred' document. But the document created in Philadelphia in the Spring and Summer of 1787 was framework for future growth and change, flexible enough to adjust to the future - which is why the Constitution provides a process for amendment. The ten amendments were items states did not find in the document.


@ John Harville:

And over the yrs., 3/4 of the states have "ratified" 27 Amends. And your point is what?

Reads like your argument is a matter of interpretation which is why the Supremes exist.

John Harville

Copntango: My point - which you just made for me - is that Constitution 'purists' who want what the writers 'intended' - in the form of the original document - actually have gotten what the founders 'intended' in a "People's" document that could be changed without being broken. Most obvious of this point is that the original preserved slavery with an 'understanding' it would end by 1808 - but it took the 13th amendment in 1863 to make it a reality. it's interesting that many of the Tea Party - icnluding its founder - are women who were completely left out of the Declaration AND the Constitution yet their party wants a return to the 'original'.


@ John Harville:

Actually, it took a bloody conflict to make the 13th Amend. a "reality."

The TEA party is not so much a "party" as it is a political movement much like many others in America's past and present.

Your argument regarding this so-called "original" issue appears circular and I've already addressed it.

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

Swamp Fox
Swamp Fox

I don't think she is an angry Republican or tea party supporter...


Nothing like that free speech thing. Deleted because of that? verry weak. Glad to anger vain people. All because of simple truth.

John Harville

@Kurt. Didn't see the deleted post before it was deleted. As I tire of saying relentlessly here... "freedom of speech" is not a 'say anything' proposition. There have been more than 100 Supreme Court decisions on obscenity alone. That doesn't even touch slander, libel, defamation, and so on.
Just wish all you 'free speech' folks would realize with every freedom comes responsibility.


Please John, as a Marine I do know some things. Things like denying this paper an interview regarding war. It is all about attitude. That's why I am allowed to talk the way I do. Again this IS why America is so weak. Alas always repeating......

John Harville

Experience of seven decades gives some perspective others can't imagine.

John Harville

HOw long to get that removed and me banned?.. or some big bulky Marine to come beat some sense into me?

I've lost family in six wars and had two grandfathers disabled before the VA did much for them.


45 plus posts and only one source, the original Phineas T. Bluster and I don't mean you Kurt but mr obvious.

John Harville

@goofus. Namecalling!!! I LOVE it! Sorry you have no points remaining. And no meaningful replies.


Cry for me, like you got exclusive right to hardship or strife. Hey , its just life. Got no problem ever being honest . So many don't like the terse realities though . (wonder how long this 1will stay....)

John Harville

My knowledge comes from decades of study because I love this country and ALL its people. I've worked with the homeless, the wounded, the terminally ill, children wanting to learn, the elderly and the poor. I ate 'free' cheese at my crippled veteran grandfather's house. I watched him with his badly deformed arm still attempt to provide for my grandmother. So all you 'holier than...' can get on here and talk about the 'nanny' government and dumbocrats who don't want to work, and all that bull. I work with people who want to work but daily face bureaucrats who don't want to create the jobs they could.
Maybe those are some 'terse realities' you don't like.


Another dumb "rape comment" from another dumb Republican, Phil Gingrey. It is sad that this once proud party of Lincoln and Reagan is now self destructing. The GOP needs to distance itself from the rightwing nuts spewing their hate. People like Limbaugh,Beck,Coulter,Hannity, etc. do the GOP more harm than good.


Nway...olb yawa.


John Harville-- with your 70 year life experience I'm glad to know that men like you exist. Thank you.

I find it ironic that the conservatives here always want to point out THEIR interpretation of the constitution yet somehow always feel that the 14th amendment which did give women a right to choose is something that must be repealed. Why do you want to take away my right as a woman to do as I wish with my body? Conservatives are pro-birth, not pro-life--because after the child is born you gripe about your tax dollar having to take care of it. Sickening.