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It doesn't take Conventional Wisdom to see that the Republican Party brand is in trouble.  Conservatives are facing the wrath of the faithful by jumping ship and endorsing Barack Obama and yet they do it any way.  This problem is compounded by the splits in the Republican party rapidly becoming major fissures.  It has been a coalition between "Evanagelical" conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and lately "Neo-Cons" who favor exporting democracy to nations of interest whether they like it or not.  These three groups really have nothing in common.  The evangelical's aren't really dramatically concerned with fiscal policy unless it greatly disrupts their own lives (see recent events) and care little about foreign adventurism.  The fiscal conservatives have little or no interest in social policy and see foreign wars as a huge expense.  And the neo-cons have no interest at all in social policy and see the fiscal conservatives as being in their way to being able to finance their military expeditions.  Add to this the corporate conservatives whose world view can be wrapped up in "What's good for IBM is good for America" and it makes you wonder how they've survived as a group this long.

So where can they go from here?  As I see it, there are three possibilities...

The first is they do nothing.  Frankly, continuing with the damaged goods that the party has become will only spell greater failure for the GOP in 2010 and 2012 barring a substantial meltdown in an Obama administration.  That the best they can hope for in this scenario is that the Democrats screw up even worse than the Republicans.  Their only other hope is that a newly Democratic President and Congress push heavily liberal policy to at least give them something to fight against while they try to figure out what to fight for.  This does nothing to repair party rifts and likely only delays an eventual collapse.  Obviously, this path is a complete failure.  Such a significant failure that it brings the risk of the Republican Party becoming a regional party spread only through the southeast and rural areas of the prairie states.

The second would be a reprise of the 1994 Republican Revolution.  Their greatest obstacle here is that they've already done this trick once and look at what it led to just a decade later.  And right after that particular road-bump would be the lack of Republicans with sufficient recognition and reputation to lead it.  Newt Gingrich led the last Republican Revolution and the way he was tarred and feathered means that any leader a new Republican Revolution might have would need a stirling reputation and broad-based support within the party to prevent their movement from derailing just like the last Republican Revolution.  And I'm not sure that the Republicans really have a sufficiently charismatic leader that could actually pull it off.   It's a possible tack, and frankly I suspect it's the most likely approach the Republicans will choose with or without a qualified leader for it, the problem is that I don't think it will sell.  There's been a few names tossed around as a leader for this kind of approach including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and even Sarah Palin but given that none of them have much in the way of support within their own party, they'll have significant hurdles towards uniting the party without quite a few jumping ship.  An evangelical leadership would likely have the same results of turning the Republicans into a regional or minor party.  And a fiscal conservative leader will never be fully trusted or accepted by the evangelical part of their base.

That's why I think there's a third possibility, and namely that's the path of the Democratic party in 1948.  Finding that their party contained irreconcilable differences, the Democrats walked away from each other and founded a separate Democratic party with a different platform altogether.  I think it's quite possible (albeit unlikely) that the Republicans may have their own split with those "old time small government" Republicans breaking off to form their own Republican party with just enough social populism to attract moderates from the Democratic party.  The irony here is that those Southern voters that broke off from the Democrats to form the Dixiecrats and who were later subsumed into the Republican party are pretty much the same voting bloc that is causing such problems for the Republican party now.  Left to their own devices in a deflated "old" Republican party lacking the credibility their more moderate and fiscally responsible former members brought to the table, their numbers would dwindle until they could work their way into one party or the other in an attempt to bring their social agenda to the fore again.

It is this third option that has me wondering if it's an actual possibility.  Unburdened by their need to pander to the conservative Christian base and relieved of their current Neo-Con leadership, a renewed Republican party could espouse their former virtues of smaller government, balanced budgets, states rights (including their right to allow gay marriage or at least civil unions), heightened trade, limited global intervention only when absolutely called for, and at the same time put behind their troublesome past (read Bush I & II).  A reborn Republican party with a moderate viewpoint on social issues and in favor of fiscal conservatism would bring the party much more in line with its "party of Lincoln" tagline.  Throw in being in favor of limited regulation of the economy and there's little to argue with.  Such a party could be attractively packaged to many moderate Democrats and would likely see a number of folks cross over from Democrat to this "New Republican" party.  It would even wipe the slates for "former Republicans" who could easily stand up and say that they left their own party when they felt it no longer represented them and their constituents.  After dumping their own far-right wing and winning moderates from the Democrats, they could point to either of the other parties as "extremists"... and they might even be right.

And if that was the party that was formed, what is left for the Democratic party to stand for?  That's really the thing that has me stumped.  How do you run against balanced budgets? Or a better trade balance?  And the "old Republican" party would be for what... invading other countries and installing religion in government?  The party of Pat Buchanan and Sarah Palin.

So in this scenario, we'd have an effectively moderate Republican party, a leaner Democratic party that leans farther to the left without as many of its own moderates to balance it, and the remnants of the old Republican party made up of fiscally irresponsible Neo-Cons and "Evangelical Christians".  Three "major" parties but with a much more realistically "big tent" GOP that can actually draw a large moderate voter bloc.

Ah well, just my musings on the situation so please forgive me if I am off target on this.  Right now I'm just curious about the idea and watching the writings and speeches of the conservatives unhappy with the Republican party to see what their plans are.  But like I said before, I don't think it's likely to happen... just possible.  

And in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a Georgia Democrat and have voted pretty much purely Democrat for about 20 years.

Originally posted to AdamSchmidt on Mon Oct 27, 2008 at 12:44 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I suspect what we will see (0+ / 0-)

    is a realignment of the electorate. I like you analysis of your third situation, although I am more optimistic and I believe that these moderate Republicans are more likely to start voting for Democrats instead of trying to start their own party, mainly because there is a considerable lack of charismatic leadership in this wing. I think we will instead see the Republican party splinter, with moderates heading to the Blue Dog Democrat side of our coalition, and the wing-nut, pro-Palinites becoming the defining characteristic of a Southern and rural West regional party. It will be a sight to see. If Obama suceeds as a president, there will be an Obama Revolution to fix the problems created by the Reagan Revolution

  •  It's a wish (0+ / 0-)

    that may not come to reality.

    History is filled with accidents. For the kind of moderate, big tent Republican to be reborn out of the ashes of the current one, a lot must happen.

  •  Are you sure that there are enough (0+ / 0-)

    fiscal conservatives as opposed to free market ideologues? Because where have they been the last 8 years?

  •  GOP civil war (0+ / 0-)

    There was already a diary on a GOP civil war the other day.

    I think that the free traders and the neo-cons will square off against the old school isolationist, fiscal and social conservative, protectionist wing.

    I think the old school is going to win. You can't win in states like Kansas or WV with just the CEO country club vote.

    I disagree with your description of the 3rd option. The conservative southern dems didn't completely leave the party in 48. They came back after that election and didn't leave in droves until around 1968 when LBJ refused the nomination.

  •  Britian's LDP shows the decades in the wilderness (0+ / 0-)

    , at least, a 3rd-party-Rethug-rump would face.  And its even worse here where its not a parlimentary system (so no coalitions).  Decades of irrelevance is not likely not something Americans - let alone the moneyed interests behind 'traditional' Rethugs - will have patience to accept.

    I think the diarist has made a fundamental error in analysis, and therein lies the real answer to the question posed, to wit: We don't have national parties, we have 51 state parties.  Add to this the fact that abandoning a brand is rarely good marketing when you can rehab it, and you get the most likely IMO result: State-by-state party civil wars with either corporatists (because that is what the 'fiscal conservative' R has been since 1918 at least) vs. theocon (the neocons are not a separate force, but the lackeys of the corp-cons, they know their masters voice, and have no independent voter base in any event).  

    Thus, we will see a hodgepodge of corp-con and theocon state parties loosely affiliated thru the national umbrella and united primarily by lust for power and delusions they can use the other side without being 'corrupted' and opposition to Democrats and 'lib-ruls'.  In congress, they will return to the near-perpetual minority of pre-1994. Occassionally, a charismatic figure will navigate the primary thicket to the Presidential nomination where exploiting national issues - ala anti-Communism - or temporary fissures - ala Nixon '68 -  or disasterous D nominations - ala McGovern and Dukakis - or charisma and a combination of those - ala Eisenhower and Reagan - will give them the WH.

    Pretty much what we had until '94 and the rise of Rethug talk radio and Faux.  The propaganda covered over the fundamentals for a time, but only for a time.

    Of course, that assumes the Democrats don't find a way to blow it and force a party inversion (imagine a Rethug party composes of liberals and evangelicals, thankfully extremely unlikely).

    It however raises a much more interesting question: where do the Democrats go from here?  To complete dominance - ala '32-'68 - or varying degrees of titular dominance - ala '68-'94?

  •  There is Another Path (0+ / 0-)

    The Democratic Party under Obama is going to reach out to the disenfranchised "reasonable" Republicans (Colin Powell etc.) and bring them into a bigger Democratic Party tent.

    By driving down the center of the road, Obama will show us that Democrats can dominate national politics for the next 40 years.

  •  Only a possibility (0+ / 0-)

    Like I said, I don't view a Republican party split as a probability, just one of the courses they can take.  Frankly, the other two are pretty dire for them... do nothing and if Obama doesn't give them something significant to rally against they'll be in even poorer shape than they are now.  And if they attempt to reform the party without actually uniting their disparate members it's essentially meaningless.  A Republican split is (in my view) probably their best course of action if they want to remain relevant.

    As for there being enough moderate or fiscally conservative Republicans to make a significant split... even a small number could be enough to make a major shift.

    In any event, I still see the most likely outcome will be a poorly handled attempt to "reunite" the party by one of the faction leaders who does not enjoy cross-factional support mostly based on the "we're against Obama" platform.  If this happens, say goodbye to the Republicans for 2010, 2012, and quite possibly points beyond.

  •  And an apology... (0+ / 0-)

    I completely missed the GOP Civil War diary entry from yesterday.  I actually created this account over a week ago so I could post this very diary entry (yep, long time reader, first time diary poster here) and have had it saved on my drive awaiting the activation of my ability to post it.  Unfortunately, it appears that I both missed the party and frankly thereisnospoon did a better job of writing it.

    If there's anything that I can add to the conversation it would be this... The Republican Party (in some form) is important to the functioning of our democracy.  They are, or can be, active participants in the national discourse... having just two parties limits the options tremendously, having only one significant party dramatically reduces our ability as a country to have alternate solutions.  I'm a Democrat and am generally behind the party platform, but I feel we all lose out when there's only one party... even if it's my own.

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