Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tomasky is Wrong-The GOP's Leadership is Wimpy in General

Newsweek's cover story by Michael Tomasky about Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney being a "wimp," has lead to much discussion even from within the magazine's franchise. In a subsequent article elaborating his views, Tomasky argues that Governor Romney "lives in fear of America's Right Wing," and that they only care about "passing the muster" with what Teddy Roosevelt famously called the "lunatic fringe" of the parties. The evidence Tomasky refers to of course is Governor Romney's serial vacillating on everything from gun control, abortion, and the Individual Mandate in his Commonwealth Care Plan.

Governor Romney's unwillingness to confront the far right, of course stands in stark contrast to George Romney's refusal to endorse Barry Goldwater in 1964 and his courageous stance on Civil Rights. It is easy to simply lay blame on Governor Romney and ridicule his weakness as just an example of a man without principle. However, it is clear that Governor Romney is not an isolated incident. Rather the GOP's leadership is being dominated by "wimps" and incompetents as they have frequently shown their unwillingness to stand against their more radical fringes when they are wrong.

The highest ranking elected Republican in the Country, Speaker John Boehner is a classic example of this. While his caucus has said they would focus on jobs, they have instead resorted to ideological grandstanding and refuse address the reality of a Democratic Senate and White House. Since taking up the Speaker's Gavel, his Republican Congress has voted thirty-three times to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In addition, they voted for two of Representative Paul Ryan's budgets, and pushed for a Balanced Budget Amendment in the midst of a debt-ceiling debate, knowing none of these would pass the Senate.

Why? Because Boehner was too weak to set his caucus in order and create an agenda that addressed his surroundings to achieve conservative goals. Furthermore, he has ambitious understudies such as Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy breathing down his back, throwing red meat to his caucus, setting themselves up as the next leaders should there be a mutiny. In turn, like Governor Romney, the Speaker has abdicated his duties as Speaker of the House out of sheer terror. While a greater leader would shape the consensus, and keep his party in line, the Speaker is fearful of losing his power and therefore allowing ideological grandstanding instead of creating solutions.

What is especially ironic is that the party is allowing itself to be lead by wimps when previously, the GOP were the ones who had the stronger leaders and the Democrats were the ones who picked wimpy leaders. Furthermore, they were able to achieve conservative goals in similar situations. Ronald Reagan got the triple crown of spending cuts, defense increases, and tax cuts in his first year in office, despite the fact that the bleeding-heart liberal Tip O'Neil of Massachusetts was the Speaker of the House. Newt Gingrich was able to achieve a balanced budget, and capital gains tax cuts with Bill Clinton as President. George W. Bush was able to pass exorbitant tax cuts, and drum up support for two wars while there was still a Democratic Senate and was aided by Tom "the Hammer" Delay and Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Then, the GOP suffered backlashes in recent years. Gingrich's hubris and vigor turned him into a polarizing figure who faced a mutiny within his own party. President Bush and Vice President Cheney's cocksure approach to Iraq led to adverse results on the ground and Tom Delay fell on his own ethical sword. In turn, the party was left with understudies who were being groomed for leadership but not necessarily ready for prime time, such as Boehner, who was not seen as leadership material. Governor Romney, meanwhile has been seen not as a standard-bearer with any relatively new ideas but rather the safe choice because he lacked the firebrand nature of his fellow 2012 candidates.

The subsequent wave of defeats in 2006 and 2008 saw the rise of the Tea Party. But instead of co-opting the Tea Party, and taming it to be a workable force, the leadership has failed to take the reins and has allowed a bucking bronco to not only disrupt their buggy but everyone else's as well. Furthermore, it appears that the Tea Party not only emerged out of this lack of leadership but it requires it. At this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said the following:

We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it.
Norquist's quote is telling. It shows that the GOP has reduced itself to not having a proper party hierarchy to mitigate its fringes to the point where the fringes essentially govern the leadership. The overall dereliction of duty by the leaders out of sheer fear has allowed people like Norquist, Bachmann, and others to completely govern the party agenda to the point that the people who should be spearheading are now paralyzed by the power of the fringes. The lack of willpower creates leaders afraid of their own shadows. However, ideology rarely leads to smart governing and if the leaders of the party continue to be silent, the party risks relevance.

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