Tea Party insistence on ideological purity is shrinking the Republican Party
HERE‘s the core argument in Steve Coll’s broader essay in the current issue of The New Yorker on the dilemma facing the Republican Party:
The Tea Party’s anti-intellectualism reflects a longer, deeper decline in the Republican Party’s ability to tolerate a diversity of ideas and public-policy strategies, and to adapt to American multiculturalism. Mitt Romney’s poor showing among Latino voters in 2012 helped insure Barack Obama’s reëlection. Republican leaders, chastened and without any other obvious way to increase their vote base before 2016, pledged earlier this year to revive a comprehensive immigration-reform bill. Yet party leaders, in part because they have been tied down since July by the debt confrontation, haven’t found a way to move legislation past the nativist caucus in the House.
As recently as 2007, when the Bush Administration almost passed a similar bill, it still seemed possible that a modernizing Republican Party might build a formidable political coalition of Latinos, evangelicals, disaffected Catholic Democrats, high-tech entrepreneurs, libertarians, social and educational reformers, and eclectic independents. Instead, as Geoffrey Kabaservice puts it in his history of the Republican decline, “Rule and Ruin,” movement conservatives have “succeeded in silencing, co-opting, repelling, or expelling nearly every competing strain of Republicanism from the party.” Political purges have no logical end point; each newly drawn inner circle of orthodoxy leaves a former respected acolyte suddenly on the outside. That a Tea Party-influenced purification drive now threatens such a loyal opportunist and boardroom favorite as Mitch McConnell seems a marker of the times.
McConnell’s would-be usurper is Matt Bevin, a businessman who owns a bell company; his campaign slogan is “Let Freedom Ring.” He told Glenn Beck recently, “We have got to wean people from this idea of free lunches.” (He might start with fellow Kentuckians; their state pays sixty-six cents in federal taxes for every dollar of federal spending it takes in.) Bevin pleaded, “What we need to tell the American people is that the party’s over.” Presumably, he didn’t mean the Grand Old Party, but the American people may be forgiven for thinking that he did.