New Castle News

February 18, 2013

Mitchel Olszak: Will GOP survive current divisions?

Mitchel Olszak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Somebody asked me the other day if I thought the Republican Party was about to split apart.

I said no. It was an assessment based on history.

Creating a new political party in America is a challenging process. They occasionally crop up, but they don’t last.

Typically, these parties appeal to a relatively narrow portion of the population. But under America’s traditional two-party system, Republicans and Democrats survive mainly by attracting a large cross section of citizens.

The world is full of political parties with narrow focus. They frequently are referred to as minor or fringe parties. Only in those countries where a multitude of political parties exists — and coalitions must be forged to govern — do they have even a chance of sharing power.

The issue involving the Republican Party is a rift that’s forming between what could best be described as traditionalists and the tea party insurgents. Right now, members on both sides of this divide are taking pot shots at each other — mostly by blaming their GOP brethren for costing the party success in the most recent election.

The 2012 vote mostly maintained the status quo in the nation, but it came at a time when many Republicans were anticipating substantial gains. It has led to an element of soul searching and intraparty bashing.

On one side you have strident believers who argue that having Mitt Romney at the head of the ticket was a disaster. For them, Romney was too moderate and indecisive, causing many conservatives to stay home on Election Day.

On the other side you have pragmatic political types who claim some of the hardline candidates selected in GOP primaries caused many voters to recoil in November, giving key races — particularly in the Senate — to the Democrats.

So who’s right?

In a way, they both are. Romney was a flawed candidate with a laundry list of flip flops. People from a broad array of the political spectrum viewed him as a politician whose only core belief was becoming president.

But it’s also true that voters were repelled by some of the tea party-backed candidates who found it appropriate to say silly and disturbing things regarding rape and abortion. Originally, the tea party’s focus was on deficit spending and a demand for balanced budgets. But it somehow shifted into areas that are political dead ends in a free society.

It’s possible some tea party Republicans will break from the main organization. Last week, there had to be two responses to President Obama’s State of the Union address because of the current schism.

But will it last? I don’t think so. While tea party members may be passionate about certain things, emotion gets you only so far in politics. At the end of the day, it’s organization, planning and compromise that achieve sustained success at the polls.

Democrats may be grinning at the notion of a Republican Party on the verge of implosion. But wise folks will recognize there is an underlying healthiness in America’s two-party system. It creates the catalyst for presenting competing ideas for the future of the nation. A healthy political system needs that sort of constructive give and take.

In the current ugly ideological atmosphere of this nation, many people forget that negotiation and compromise always have been the hallmarks of change. In fact, the checks and balances established by the Constitution ensure that without compromise, no sustained progress is possible.

And without compromise, no meaningful political party is possible.