Mitt Romney’s taken a lot of criticism for his never-ending array of positions on just about every issue, from the auto industry bailout to Obamacare. While all of that criticism is deserved, the reality is Mitt’s machinations are less about his failings as a candidate and more about the GOP’s fractured base. And depending on how the election turns out, that fracture could prove to be irreparable.
This fracturing within the Republican party is hardly news. For decades, Christian conservatives battled more socially-tolerant pro-business moderates for the heart and soul of the Republican party. But as that battle evolved from the Goldwater revolution of the 1960s to the Ron Paul Express, the Republican base has grown increasingly conservative and intolerant, making the argument that Republican losses are tied to candidates like John McCain who simply do not represent the purity of modern-day conservatism.
Of course, this argument ignores one critical fact: demographics. Republicans are losing every demographic but the white male vote, and as this country’s population shifts away from white-men as the majority, so to does Republicans hope for lasting relevance in the national political conversation. And as candidates like Romney increasingly pander to the wedged-white male voter, those demographics only get reinforced. It’s a political death spiral and many in the Republican establishment know it.
For conservatives looking for the future of the party, they may just find it across the aisle. Democrats like Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar enjoy wide support from Republicans in her state even as the state’s conservative base moves farther to the Tea Party right. In a sane world, she could even be considered a moderate Republican, with a pro-business, hawkish platform that refuses to rock-the-boat on social issues. She’ll handily win re-election thanks in no small part to the support of Republicans who will not back her challenger, the Ron Paul-aspiring fauxbertarian Kurt Bills.
So where Ronald Reagan inspired a generation of “Reagan Democrats” the same now could be said, but not about President Obama but about the Tea Party. Obama hasn’t inspired a move to the left by Republicans as much as they’ve found themselves in exile in their own party. To that end, these are the Tea Party Democrats and may be the future of the conservative movement. We’ll have a much better idea after the election.
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