Disclaimer: I dont normally venture too much into politics on this blog, mainly because I don’t know nearly enough to eloquently comment. Please be gentle.
Beginning with the primaries leading up to the 2012 election, many of us on the left side of the aisle and even some within the Republican party are wondering if the GOP is… well, falling apart in front of our eyes. Several high profile Senate races during the last election showed GOP incumbents being cannibalized by their own members within the Tea Party. Certainly the blame game following Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama in the Presidential race was another public indication of political infighting. However, the Congressional display the past few weeks with the fiscal cliff and Hurricane Sandy relief bill has fostered the question in the minds of many if the Grand Old Party is, in fact, about to fracture and break. Last week, Errol Louis posited just that in an opinion article he penned for CNN.
Louis points to the debate over Hurricane Sandy relief funds as a picture of the large and growing wedge that is dividing the Republican Party, a wedge forged from the fundamental policies of taxation and spending. He points out that there are some within the party who are committed to reducing the deficit but are willing to negotiate with their liberal colleagues in the House. On the other side are budget chopping radicals and no tax hike zealots who believe that government spending must be stopped at all cost. And apparently that includes disaster relief as well.
That wedge was on full display the last few weeks as House Majority Leader Boehner attempted to pass his “Plan B” for the fiscal cliff in the House but ultimately had to pull the deal after failing to muster enough support among the Tea Party members. The eventual fiscal cliff deal that passed the Senate and ultimately came to a vote in the House has already been criticized by Tea Party Republicans who claim there will be hell to pay. Clearly trying to force a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief after failing to bring Plan B to the floor just wasn’t going to happen. Boehner killed the bill at the time, and the flood gates opened.
A rising star within the GOP, the high profile Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie was not afraid to air his feelings. He lambasted the GOP for not voting on Hurricane Sandy relief. And who could really blame him? Many of the Representatives and Senators within the GOP hail from states that receive billions of dollars from the federal government – billions of dollars that just happen to flow out of states like New York and New Jersey. Christie was quoted as saying that “There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority (Republicans) and their speaker, John Boehner. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Natural disasters happen in red states and blue states and states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”
Ultimately the measure passed on Friday, January 4th for $9.7 billion – smooth sailing in the Senate with an unanimous vote. The House… not so much. In fact, 67 member of the House of Representatives voted against the bill – all Republicans. Interestingly, that list includes the Representatives from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi – all states that received federal aid after Hurricane Katrina. It only took Congress ten days to approve aid to Katrina victims back in 2005 – it took more than two months to approve any aid for Sandy victims.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time a major political party in the United States has fallen apart. In fact, there was once a Democractic-Republican party which fractured into two: the Jacksonian Democrats, who in turn became the modern day Democratic Party, and the Whig Party. The Whig Party also eventually collapsed, although many of their ideals were adopted by the Republican Party that emerged in the 1850′s. You wouldn’t recognize the Republican or the Democractic parties of the 1850′s though – they look and speak very differently from back then.
So is the GOP really falling apart or is this just political pandering until the new Congress is ushered in? Can the GOP sweep its Tea Party members under its wing or might we actually see the emergency of a new political party in the US – one that appears to be both rich and powerful. I’m not sure that we’re going to usher in a new era in American history, but if there is one thing the GOP can hold onto in order for it’s continued survival, it is this – it’s absolute inability to tolerate anything that President Obama says, does, or throws its way. The GOP should be careful though; popular opinion is that the President is winning this battle much like the election, with several opinion polls showing that if the country had jumped off the fiscal cliff, Americans were likely to blame the Grand Old Party.