GOP in transition
George Wallace, the 1968 Independent candidate for president, launched a new party that sort of embraced conservatism. For most of his career, the Alabamian had embraced a form of southern liberalism that used government as a tool for sociological and economic progress. However, he won the governorship of Alabama in 1962, under a platform that stressed the retention of segregation.
In 1963, he gained enough prominence to be a star in right-wing circles, yet his conservatism was tinged with a heavy gloss of populism. By 1964, he raised havoc in Democratic primaries and by 1967 he was plotting an effort that placed him on the ballot in all 50 states. Despite his mouthing right-wing platitudes, he never lost his progressive view of government. He denounced conventional rightists as those who only wanted “to conserve money” at the expense of the public.
In many ways, this describes the dilemma of the Tea Party whose membership is wide and its ideology reflects that diversity. While old-fashioned John Bircher views, coupled with devil may care libertarianism, dominated Barry Goldwater’s 1964 effort, Wallace denounced all elites who “looked down” their noses at all “average Americans.”
This view still dominates the right in America. Some like those who followed Richard Mellon Scaife in the 1990s in advocating the domination of the wealthy still stick to the old ideology, but others truly dread the control of those who seemingly are out of touch with their daily lives, be they left or right. For Tea Partiers, their brush with political innocents may have arrived.
Republican corporate types have placed pressure on their new membership to take one for the team. Figuring that once more the discipline of the Christian Right and the Tea Party will once more prevail, the establishment have placed practical consideration in front of these groups. Do you want to take the Senate or not? Fair enough question, but tricky in accepting without losing integrity.
Mike Huckabee, his pockets flushed with celebrity cash, has urged his old Christian Right friends to stand down. Like William Jennings Bryan, who finished his days trying to sell lots in Miami, and has become Huckabee’s model. Gone is his compassion for the poor, Huckabee has become a traditional rightist, warning against the evils of teenage loose women and the dangers of birth control. Suddenly his forum at Fox News has overwhelmed his idealism, yet the forces that launched and sustained his effort for the presidency in 2008 still exist.
At least Rick Santorum has kept the faith. He has been reluctant to cash in on his celebrity and despite his awkwardness has remained faithful to his ideology from 2012. Perhaps he realizes that slow and steady might win the race, eschewing the blowhard ways of Huckabee, Sarah Palin and the now reflective Glenn Beck. For his honor, Santorum deserves some praise, regardless of how you regard his politics.
Now the Republicans will enter the 2014 midterms with a sort of unity. But it also is frought with dangers.
Risking the passion that gave them victory in 2010, the GOP might be setting themselves up for failure. With the party base more Right-wing than ever, they are prepared to launch an attack based more on expediency than principles.