The State of the GOP: Party Discipline Through Political Assassination

What The Republican Party Has Become is the title of a superb post by Steve Kornacki at Salon. This is the story of how Republican Senators defeated a bill originally sponsored by Republican Bob Dole which now was being used as the model for UN recommendations to other UN countries. The bill has little to no cost to the US nor does it encumber US legislation – its the model for how Disabilities legislation should be done in other countries. But the Bill was defeated despite the presence of Bob Dole in a wheeelchair on the Senate floor urging his Republican colleagues to vote for approving the Treaty.

The Senate marches on and ignores a Veteran Bob Dole

Steve describes exactly what was done –

It was Republican votes – 38 of them – that derailed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which needed a two-thirds supermajority for ratification. Only seven Republicans voted for the treaty and not a single Democrat voted against it. This came despite the presence of a GOP luminary, former Senate Majority Bob Dole, now 89 and frail, who was wheeled into the chamber in a last-minute effort to rally support….
The arguments against the treaty mainly revolved [around] the U.N.-phobia that’s common on the far right, with warnings about fading sovereignty and encroaching world government.

But if anything, this underscores how far out of the mainstream the GOP has moved over the last 20 years. While the ADA has proven to be a rousing success, it was at least possible for conservatives in 1990 to raise non-paranoid concerns about it, mainly relating to the burdens it would place on businesses and the potential for a lawsuit bonanza. In fact, these types of concerns were raised as the law was debated, and some changes were made in response to them – which explains why most of the conservative senators of 1990 were ultimately willing to go along with the law.

By contrast, the U.N. treaty raises none of the concerns about business and lawsuits that the ADA did; it simply seeks to hold up existing U.S. law as a model for the world. And yet the vast majority of Republicans in the U.S. Senate sided with the arguments of the paranoid far right and voted against it anyway. This doesn’t mean that every Republican senator who voted against the treaty actually believes these arguments. For all we know, Lindsey Graham (for instance) was treating the vote as a chance to shore up his standing with the right in advance of a potential 2014 primary fight. But that’s still telling: In the GOP of 2012, the “safe” vote is against something as noncontroversial as an international treaty based on American law and championed by a Republican icon from another era.

In effect Steve is saying you can add UN Fanaticism along with opposition to Gay Marriage, No Gun Control, Women Decide vs Right to Life, Only Christian Prayer in Schools, No Immigration Reform and other one issue Knee-jerk voting policies that the Republican Party cultivates in its Base.

And this is the fundamental problem that NYTimes Lawrence Downes points out

The vote was a triumph for Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum and others on the hard-right loon fringe, who have been feverishly denouncing the treaty as a United Nations world-government conspiracy to kill disabled children (you can look it up).

Only eight Republicans voted yes…

Several Republicans who might have made a difference but voted “no,” as Roll Call pointed out, are up for re-election in 2014 and are facing possible primary challenges from the right: Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who changed his “yes” to a “no” after it was obvious the treaty would fail.

But there is a downside to supporting these knee-jerk issues – party discipline. How can you guarantee that all GOP party members will vote uniformly on these often divisive issues?

Party Discipline Through Assassination

This is the fundamental problem that afflicts my party of 25 years ago – it has adopted too many knee-jerk positions which require patrolling in the case that any Republican member departs from the Party Line. So if out of conviction, you step outside the “boundaries” on any GOP Base issues you will be politically assassinated. Hence the loss of many moderates in the Republican party. One issue vigilantes are prepared to take down Republican Congressmen as seen by Grover Norquist on his No Tax pledge, the NRA on any toughening of gun laws and Christian Right on any weakness in their faith based issues. The editors at Care2 have documented this brutal party discipline.

So the demise of the GOP is marked by a Party that has tried to exist at the 51% voting margins by supporting one issue voter causes that tend to be inherently divisive or extreme.  But such knee jerk issues as harsh Immigration Reform demands, towing the NRA line of NO Gun Control whatsoever, restore Prayer in Public Schools so long as it is Christian-only prayer, anti-Gay Marriage positions, absolute support of Big Business and Wall Street positions – many are increasingly crossing over to minority positions. So GOP party members, seeing the Obama victory Writing on the Wall are faced with tough choices – which Base issues do they “moderate”  and how far do they change?

The Dwindling of Reason and Moderation in Congress

So the GOP knows it has to change some Basic policy positions but its infamous Party Discipline and its attacks on rational and scientific methods or principles in so many arenas curb the Republican’s ability to make effective internal changes  One has to only look at GOP inflexibilities from Economics and  Deficit reduction to anti-scientific resistance to Climate Change. Or consider the  attacks on the effectiveness of regulations [and Government Agencies]across a wide spectrum from Banking and Wall Street financial controls through environmental protections to food and drug regulation – the GOPhas smeared them all.

Because of GOP’s Political Assassinations  and attacks on basic rational policy analysis, the GOP has lost many of the moderates and free thinkers that it needs to adapt to a rapidly changing political world. However the problems and crises are not waiting for the GOP. There are growing   streams of ever graver domestic and complexly intertwined  international issues that confront the US and for which the GOP is increasingly ill equipped to cope with reasonable and rational policy approaches. Thus,  the US now faces 3 major problems: 1)Globalization and American Multinationals have just about eliminated the US innovation through manufacturing advantages while the rest of the World from Brazil  to the Southeast Asian Tiger Economies are more than catching up- so the one of the bases of US Power, its Economic prowess is severely weakened; 2)climate, population, environmental, and basic food+water crises are converging into a Global Perfect Storm and 3 )the time available to make good and reasoned decisions has shrunk drastically while the Internet has provided much more immediate awareness of a)what is being done and b)who is obstructing/retarding efforts to deal with emerging issues and problems.

In sum, the GOP  does not have the luxury of digging in  or becoming recalcitrant on internal reform – thus the possibilities of GOP splitting into limited Issue Sects or succumbing to Palinesque or Tea Party  demagoguery are very real. In a Two Party democracy – can the US afford to lose to the fringe and irrationality one of  the Two?

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