2016 seems like a lifetime away.
Yet the campaign for the 2016 election will begin in earnest in just a little over 2 years. In the summer of 2015, presidential candidates on both sides will start to stake out their ground. The 2016 field for the GOP is expected, at this point, to be pretty wide open. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and others all have been mentioned as possible candidates.
It’s a strong field considering the disarray that the GOP had become ever since the Democrats took back control of Congress in 2006. The GOP was soundly routed again in 2008. But then in 2010, the GOP showed flickers of life with the rise of the Tea Party, only to have too many voters stay home in 2012 rather than put Romney over the top.
The success of the Tea Party — along with the sharp movement away from pervasive government intervention following the financial collapse — has brought about positives, but also some negatives. The most striking being GOP/conservatives splintered into different factions and now spend more time criticizing each other than they do criticizing President Obama and the Democrats.
There’s nothing conceptually wrong with differences among individuals within the Republican party and/or the conservative movement. Spirited and honest debate of the issues is healthy.
However, the split factions often put their own interests ahead of the true goal – winning.
There seems to be three distinct groups:
- The Purists – You know who they are. “You must be conservative on everything or… RINO!” The purists are the people calling for John Boehner’s head every week. In spite of the GOP having a very small House majority and a fractured caucus, Boehner has worked wonders (limiting tax increases, sequestration, the deficit). Yet the purists want him out almost every week because of something he did or did not do. Their latest target is Marco Rubio. Some people, such as Michelle Malkin, have serious issues with Rubio’s support of the latest immigration bill — in particular, the path to citizenship element. But Malkin’s criticism has been about the bill and not Rubio personally. The Purists, on the other hand, have already written him off as a potential 2016 GOP candidate. Examples of the purist mindset? Radio talk show host Mark Levin and Sarah Palin.
- Tunnel Visionaries – This is the group that doesn’t want to know about other ideas out there and what else is going on around them. Similar to the The Purists in their dogmatic stance, they’re not willing to even listen to ideas that stray beyond their own core belief system. They are sometimes referred to as “the establishment,” though the traits are seen in a variety of different politicians and people. Some of them are often dismissive of people like Rand Paul, while also being openly hostile to other politicians (such as Justin Amash). They are masters at concern trolling, convinced people like Sarah Palin have far more influence than they do. Examples of tunnel visionaries are Karl Rove and John McCain.
- The Snipers – These politicians splintered off thinking they are the “real” conservatives while their targets are “extremists” or they are consistently wagging their fingers at the party saying, “If they’d only do this or that we’d win.” For the former, their current favorite target is Ted Cruz. “He doesn’t play by the rules. He’s a bully. He’s not adhering to the traditions of the Senate.” With respect to the latter, there are people, like Justin Amash (ironically, a target of Tunnel Visionaries), who constantly rail against their own party (a la Ron Paul) to the point that the news media focuses on their inter-party criticism far more then their criticism of President Obama or other Democrats. Other examples of Snipers are Jon Huntsman and Joe Scarborough.
The problem is, each group believes it’s right, while citing the other two groups as the problem. It’s like a Mexican standoff – except when the dust settles, all that is left are the entrails of smaller government and lower taxes. Meanwhile, a Democrat steps around the carnage and settles into the seat in the Oval Office.
The good news is that the differences between all three groups is not a chasm.
It’s a small gap that can easily be bridged.
Sometimes the groups are all aligned, as they are currently with the Obama IRS scandal and the Justice Dept/AP phone record flap.
Therein lies the magic elixir that allows for healthy disagreements as opposed to party/movement infighting.
Make it about President Obama.
“I don’t agree with Marco Rubio on his immigration bill, but President Obama ____________”
“I don’t agree with Ted Cruz’s demeanor in the Senate, but President Obama ____________”
“I think Rand Paul’s filibuster was over the top, but President Obama ____________”
Get the picture?
Instead of each of the aforementioned groups using their differences to beat each other over the heads, why not present those differences as an advantage to show that the GOP can appeal to a wide range of constituents?
It’s better to celebrate wins than it is for people to pat themselves on the back, thinking their little faction is not to blame for yet another loss.