Titanic Split Threatens the GOP

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The Grand Old Party is coming apart at the seams.
For the past 10 years the Republican  party has played loyal supporters to its 1% sponsors [think NRA, Climate Change deniers, Wall Street, etc, etc] while allowing its Tea Party rump of 40-50 House members to dictate policy that is increasingly unpopular with the GOP’s own members. On major issues the GOP has drifted ever further away from both national and GOP’s own popularly-supported positions. These are major national issues like background checks and  other gun control measures, action on global warming, Christian prayer in schools, campaign finance overhaul, etc. It is now a case  in which the GOP ignores the majority wishes of its own party supporters let alone national sentiment.

Instead the GOP has voted for unpopular measures with multiple votes such as  56 votes against Obamacare and repeated threats to shutdown the government despite the political damage that the 2013 shutdown of the government inflicted on the party. Part of this is frustration arising from the fact that in 2014 the GOP gained  majorities in the Senate [54 to 46 seats] and padded its lead in the House [247 to 188, a whopping 59 vote advantage]. So now the  NO GOP Congress could set its own agenda by overriding any Presidential vetoes with big majorities in both the Senate and the House.

But the notorious NO GOP Congress of 2008-2001 which had successfully defeated all of President Obama’s attempts to revive the economy, act on Climate change, or reset Gun Background check laws in the light of the Sandy Hook massacre, etc  – all had been successfully thwarted by the GOP. But one of the crucial ingredients for disabling Obama’s policies was the unprecedented use of the cloture vote in the Senate. Used sparingly on matters of national import [3-4 time/year] upto 1970s, cloture use quadrupled from 1980 to 2000 and then doubled again  with heavy  GOP use from 2006 to 2010 .

The cloture vote required 60 votes in the Senate to pass a measure subject to Cloture opposition. Votes on Infrastructure programs  to revive the Economy plus Climate Change bills among many others were defeated by the GOP in the 2006 to 2010 era  even though the Democrats had Senate and House  majorities at that time. So now that Democrats lost a Senate majority, they used the same Cloture tactics on the GOP for several recent bills associated with the Iran Deal. The result has been the Democarats have   insured that a Presidential veto on GOP rejection of the Iran Treaty could not be reversed so the Iran Deal would ultimately pass.in Congress despite fervent GOP opposition.

Congressional Stalemate Leads to GOP Chaos

But these recent Republican stalemates have sparked a  revolt among an ultraconservative elite in the GOP, the Tea Partiers now re-dubbed as the Freedom Caucus.[read this superb article]. This is a group of 40-50 GOP Congressmen who have the following common characteristics:
1)They are all white and, except for 1 Congresswoman, all male;
2)They represent severely gerrymandered districts that guarantee them 13% or better  Republican majority advantage in every election;
3)They have recourse to business and PAC money substantially larger than any GOP primary opposition or Democratic election time opponents;
4)They come from across the Southern Tier of Red States;
5)They benefit from the fact that GOP moderates [read those who  support some compromises with the Democrats] have been eliminated from their and nearby districts. So their no-compromise ethos can be easily adopted;
6)They can call upon information and organizational support from radical GOP Think Tanks;
7)They have been prepped in the arcane rules of House legislation so they can use House processes similar to the Cloture rule in the Senate, to effectively control the House agenda.

Their aggressive, no-compromise actions have lead to the current GOP Chaos, the latest and deepest split within the Republican party. The so called GOP establishement in both the House and Senate resent the fact that this comparatively small group,the Freedom Caucus, is now dictating policy. This resentment  is made worse because Donal Trump, the non-GOP Establishment  candidate for President in 2016 has manged to lead the polls for 6 months while espousing policy and attitudes that echo and often  go beyond the Freedom Caucus positions.

Nowhere is this chaos and internal conflict more evident in the deposing of John Boehner as House Speaker followed his heir apparent, Kevin McCarthy having to withdraw from the race to become the new Speaker. After such a ruthless move, nobody wants to take on the position including Paul Ryan, GOP Vice Presidential candidate. Time Magazine describes very well the perilous situation for both the GOP and the Nation:

In the current House, every bill represents a potential opportunity for the Freedom Caucus to depose the speaker if they are unhappy with the bill he has put forward, which is likely to be the case at least some of the time. If the Speaker puts forward a bill to continue funding the government, he can be deposed. If he tries to avoid a default on the nation’s debt, the same outcome is possible once again. The Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, the Federal Aviation reauthorization, tax extenders vital to the business community and a multi-year transportation infrastructure bill: all must-pass items by the end of the year—some, like the debt ceiling by early November. And yet little or no negotiating for a solution on any of these issues is taking place because of the chaos surrounding the House leadership elections.

The divisions between the Freedom Caucus/Tea Party and the Republican establishment are so deep they could now cleave the party in two.

A Third Party for Tea

Do not dismiss the notion of the GOP splitting and forming a third party. In 1912, the GOP split into the GOP and Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party for that years’s Presidential election. And the historical record shows Third Party candidates taking the Presidency.So the precedent has been set.

Already current GOP front runner Donald Trump has not ruled out running as an independent. And given the amount of money that Trump can bring forward plus the huge $100 million money bags in  opaque Super PAC dollars available, the emergence of a third party for Congressional seats or even Presidential office cannot be totally discounted. Yes, the implications for the GOP in the 2016 Presidential election would be dire given a party in divorce proceedings. But given the chaotic conditions unleashed by the Supreme Courts disastrous Citizens United decision, the 1%,  dread  Bernie and Hillary’s policies on drastically limiting campaign finance. So, the elites might want to preclude that outcome if they could find a good stalking horse.

In sum, the US federal government has been dysfunctional since the election of Barack Obama because of the deliberate sabotage campaign sponsored by the GOP and their investors. The Republicans have been determined to show that government does not work by deliberately scuttling the recovery and effective policy proposals. NYTimes Paul krugman describe the GOP as Money Crazy, but that reflects the nature of their 1% sponsors. The chilling prospects of a Manchurian Candidate-like scenario now looms larger with the Chaos in the GOP as a symptom of the larger duress on the current US political system.

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