New Orleans It’s hard to avoid the guilty pleasure of reading the “woe-is-me, look what’s happening to the Republican Party” pieces being penned by conservative pundits and party leaders of the newly discredited party “elite.” The main theme has been, “damn, we missed the fact that the white working class was angry about lost jobs, lost income, free trade, immigration, and the featherbedding by the rich!” We still don’t hear enough in the way of mea culpa or “gee, I guess when you play with fire, sometimes you get burned.”
Racism and misogyny are not new problems, but part of the hardwired infrastructure of the Republican Party for more than 40 years. From their much vaunted “Southern strategy” to their embrace of religious pieties and attacks on women’s control of their bodies, these were not inadvertent strategic directions, but calculated paths forward for decades no matter how they are dressed up now.
None of this is current enough to describe the support of Trump by the base. The one thing that is though is the elite’s expedient embrace of the Tea Party movement and its issues within its base and the ham-handed way the party leadership exploited their anger while ignoring their interests. This is interesting to me, because the Tea Party is still not part of the blame-game conversation that is going on about the future of the Republican Party. I think the reason continues to be the Party’s unwillingness to discredit the Tea Party and its Trump-like realities and anger, because the Tea Party as an internal caucus in the Republican Party is still dominant enough to escape both condemnation and accountability.
Obviously it’s tricky for the Republican big whoops to admit to this since Senator Ted Cruz is still a possible option for them, and he’s wearing the Tea Party t-shirt all the way and Senator Marco Rubio, until recently rode the Tea Party to his Senate seat and got caught up in its sleeves when he flirted with a half-step immigration reform plan hoping to have the radicals and the elite backing his bid for the Presidency. But, how long can they get away with this silence? Trump and his phenomenal rise would not have been possible without the Tea Party activists paving the way. Furthermore the fact that too many Republican big whoops flirted with the Tea Party and pretended they were in love with their issues and base in order to get elected, and then left them hurt and crying in the aisle when they went their own way once elected, fuels a vote for Trump “telling it like it is” and kicking the butts of the big wigs.
The Tea Party oriented Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives is another good example of their car driving with the wheels off. Their ideological hero in the Senate is Ted Cruz and they are still out of control and playing with fire, but they are part of the fine line that Speaker Ryan is still walking with his tepid handling of Trump and his reduction to schoolmarm generalizations about manners and good behavior rather than common sense and accountability.
The Republicans have a problem. They can’t win without the radicals and playing with fire, and they don’t have the backbone to face them down and expel them from the party and try and go their own way. They either need to set the tea people free and let them be a separate party or give them the Republican Party and create a new one, because theirs is a house divided and for all of their hand wringing, they still are avoiding dealing with the hard questions and taking the right steps forward.