Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
The biggest political spectacular is the emerging battle for the political soul of the Republican Party which really is a battle for the political soul of the United States itself.
In one corner: the Republican “Blue Bloods” (as defined by Sarah Palin), consisting of the Republican establishment and the still-powerful Bush family. In the other: the Hot Bloods (as defined by me), consisting of members of the party’s talk radio political culture, Tea Party movement, and Palin’s supporters.
Right now all the hapless Barack Obama has to worry about are rumblings of discontent within his party involving liberals that some speculate may challenge in him 2012. These reports are soon proven false. Sitting Presidents forced into primaries often become Political Ex-Presidents Walking, but right now Obama seems to be more in danger of another elbow in the mouth while playing basketball (particularly if it’s with John Boehner) than a serious primary challenge.
The emerging Republican chasm is different story.
With most moderate Republicans exiled or having fled the GOP, the battle is on between compassionate conservatism’s conservators and hard-right insurgents who want to make the Republican Party ideologically pure.
The catalyst is Palin, de facto head of the Tea Party and the wing of the GOP that feels the Bushes strayed too far from the mega-partisanship espoused by Rush Limbaugh. Palin is a political celebrity who surfaces to make sarcastic or cutting remarks on Twitter, Facebook or on her Alaska-themed reality cable show. On Thanksgiving Day her Facebook message was medley of partisan attack lines. The Chicago Sun Times calls her new book “ferocious” in its partisanship.
This is fine if the idea is to run to be President of the base, by the base and for the base, but in 2012 the GOP will need something more. Karl Rove on Fox News noted: “She’s got a problem with independents and a problem with Democrats, and over the course of the next year, like all of the Republican candidates, she’s got to demonstrate that she has an ability to unify the Republicans and reach outside the Republican ranks.”
When former First Lady Barbara Bush said she thinks Palin should stay in Alaska, she articulated a view that has emerged from several Republicans associated with the GOP establishment, and the Bush family. (If Jeb Bush chooses to run guess who’s in his path?)
Aaron Astor, writing on The Moderate Voice, calls Palin “the classic Reverse Elitist. She takes all of the exclusive pretentions of cultural elitists, reverses them, and holds her crowd to be the only people who should matter culturally and politically.”
Palin as President would be more polarizing than Richard Nixon. But does Blue Blood opposition mean as much as it once did? America’s center and the non-lockstep center right are now weaker than ever.
Centrists are in such disfavor with the right and left wings of the two parties that some now call centrist writings “centrist porn.”(Actually, “centrist porn” is a centrist looking at a pornographic photo in search of “the other hand…”)
Meanwhile, when Republican Senator Richard Lugar blasted his own party for planning to nix the START treaty for political reasons, he angered Tea Partiers. Former Senator John C. Danforth said if Lugar is “seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.” Danforth might as well man the lifeboats NOW: Lugar will be challenged.
At stake is the larger notion that politics should involve coalition and consensus building, and respect a buffet of ideas and not just be an exercise to marginalize those that don’t agree with a specific ideology…
Do the Blue Bloods have less power than before? Most likely. Are the Hot Bloods on the ascent? Most likely. Would coalitions and consensus mean a stronger, more politically stable, more united United States? You betchya.
Copyright 2010 Joe Gandelman
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event atmavenproductions.com.
Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter @joegandelman