A Radical Republican Party Will Never Govern America Tea Party and Libertarians want an ideological fight against GOP moderates. Their minority positions have no wide popular appeal

By Paolo von Schirach

October 4, 2013

WASHINGTON – Ted Cruz for president? Good luck. Rand Paul for President? Not so good either. And yet these are the Republican names. If these are the choices, expect America to have another Democratic President in 2017 who will continue with the same tired ideas of subsidies and public programs. Unfortunately, I see slim chances of a real US economic turnaround unless the American public is given good reasons to support a modern, growth oriented, yet truly inclusive and non ideological Republican Party. Indeed, the only way for the Republicans to become once more the majority party is to be the political force favoring genuine opportunity, the party that restores economic health while recreating the ladder that will allow the poor and the middle class to get ahead. A divided GOP now hostage of an ideological right whose leaders are more interested in fighting against moderate Republicans than in offering a broad-based and credible formula for governing will not do.

Romney tried and failed

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was an uninspiring political leader. But he instinctively understood that America’s biggest problem is that this country, once the recognized engine of innovation, transformation and ingenuity, lost its way. During his unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2012, Romney noted that well-meaning Obama policies aimed at providing relief to the poor and to the endangered middle class were doing little or nothing to encourage investments and enterprise. And he pointed out that without vibrant growth not much else will happen. 

Benign welfare state versus predatory capitalism

In a stagnant economy with high unemployment led by a mediocre incumbent, Romney’s message was supposed to resonate. But he did not win. And this was in part because of lack of charisma and a few self-inflicted wounds and in part because of the very clever Obama strategy that made Romney into a sworn enemy of the poor and a vulture capitalist whose private sector past was all about predatory greed, nothing to do with growing companies and creating jobs. So Obama, the staunch defender of entitlements and  the welfare state, despite his poor record as steward of the economic engine that makes everything else possible, got re-elected. It was not a triumph; but it was a clear win.

The irony in all this is that in truth Romney is a moderate. He had to invent a fake radical conservative persona to fend off the attacks from fellow Republicans that came to him during a long and bitter primary contest.

A radicalized GOP

Be that as it may, another unfortunate outcome of the 2012 elections is the radicalization of one large segment of the Republican Party. Romney the moderate lost; but the Tea Party and the Libertarian wing of the GOP won many House seats and a few in the Senate. And this is not good. As I argued above, the Republican Party needs to present its free market and pro-growth programs within a context of inclusion and openness. A strident and vociferous right-wing will not help. The Tea Party rhetoric that describes government as some kind of demonic tool used to strangle good, honest Americans does not resonate among the millions who today –for good or bad reasons– depend on government services.

No to Obamacare

And this gets us to the present, disastrous battle against the implementation of Obamacare. The controversial Affordable Care Act may turn out to be bad legislation. But the decision imposed by the Tea Party wing on the House Republicans to hold the operations of the entire US Government hostage unless Obama would give in and accept the demands for delaying the Affordable Care Act implementation is insane. Principled opposition to a law is fine. But here we have gotten too far. The totally unnecessary “Government Shut Down” will be used against the Republicans. If you look at long-term GOP strategies, this is going to be another totally avoidable self-inflicted wound. However, from the point of view of the small army of radical zealots in the House, this is exactly the right kind of battle. Their mission is not to govern, but to create a party of purists. And this means in the first place fighting against the moderates and the centrists within the GOP.

Is this leadership?

Being the recognized architects of the government shutdown may be a great fund-raising opportunity for Senator Ted Cruz of  Texas and others. But the shut down it is a disaster for the Republicans who caused it. And, no, this totally unproductive scorched earth tactic does not help America move ahead. Not even a little bit.

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