The mainstream GOP should have paid attention to the old story about having a tiger by the tail. The cautionary fable explains that you'll have a powerful weapon, but can't control it. Soon, it will turn you you. This story is certainly playing out across the country – most recently in the Texas Senate primary on Tuesday.
The infusion of new conservative blood could alter the complexion of the Senate, increasing the sorts of conflicts between moderates and far-right Republicans disinclined toward compromise that have characterized the House for two years. From Indiana, where Richard E. Mourdock recently toppled the veteran Republican Senator Richard G. Lugar, to Wisconsin — where two Tea Party candidates are slowly unmooring the Republican front-runner, former Gov. Tommy Thompson — to Nebraska, where Deb Fischer surprisingly beat out a more established Republican candidate…
In Utah, Orrin Hatch was forced into a primary battle when he failed to get enough votes at the state convention to win the nomination without a primary.
The dwindling number of GOP moderates is watching in dismay as this plays out. Some are complaining publicly about feeling bullied by leadership to go along with the demands of the far right. Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette abruptly decided to retire, citing the need to “hand over your wallet and your voting card” to party extremes. A fellow GOP Congressman, New York Rep. Richard Hanna, is open about his frustration, telling his local paper in Syracuse:
“I have to say that I’m frustrated by how much we — I mean the Republican Party — are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes in this moment in history,” he told The Post-Standard editorial board.
Hanna is a local businessman who won in 2010 and survived a TEA Party primary challenge this year, really seems shocked by the level of unhinged vitriol spewed on a daily basis by his GOP colleagues:
While he blamed the dysfunction on both sides, he said he feels more bitterness coming from the Republican caucus than from the Democrats.
“I would say that the friends I have in the Democratic Party I find … much more congenial — a little less anger,” he said.
Right wing GOP pressure isn't just at the national level. Moderate Republicans should certainly feel justified if they're feeling a bit paranoid these days. Conservatives are happy to discuss their efforts to cull moderate Republicans, whom they consider to be weaker, less reliable members of the elephant herd:
Frustrated by their inability to achieve some policy goals, conservatives in Republican states are turning against moderate members of their own party, trying to drive them out of state legislatures to clear the way for reshaping government across a wide swath of mid-America controlled by the GOP.
The push is most intense in Kansas, where conservatives are attempting to replace a dozen moderate Republican senators who bucked new Gov. Sam Brownback's move to slash state income taxes.
While it's entertaining to watch the GOP slowly self-destruct and race happily down a rutted path that leads inexorably towards the cliff of political irrelevance, it is bad for the country in the short term.
Far too many people just don't believe how extremist these guys are. It's not just a clown car, people! It's an armored clown bus filled with unstable extremists hostile to civil liberties, Social Security, public education, compromise of any sort, and civil society. They're the clowns of your nightmares: they're in charge in many statehouses and running the US House of Representatives.
They'll do incalculable damage to the country – and right here in Alabama – before the voting public wakes up and turns them out of office.