Let’s acknowledge one thing right from the beginning: Barack Obama has fractured the Republican Party. The real question is whether or not he fractures the Democratic Party.
While Republicans seem united in their distain for the president, it seems they are irreconcilably divided between their libertarian base and their corporate base. They are currently bi-based. Maybe it’s only a phase; a phase that will almost certainly begin with some serious denial.
The splitting of a party is serious business. A lot of money is at stake. Now, who should the NRA fund — the libertarian Tea Party, or the card-carrying Republicans who have been safe Second Amendment votes for years? This is the debate so many special interests with deep pockets are having.
Some funders, like Koch Industries, have clearly picked a side, as shown by the checks the company has funneled to the Tea Party. But in the world of politics, results matter. How many more seats will the Tea Party cost Republicans before the party establishment draws a line in the sand?
Once the line is drawn, it’s hard to go back. It’s this sense of “do or die” that has caused Republicans to take drastic actions in the recent past. Forget Rand Paul, let’s get real and focus on Ron Paul. The same guy who keeps winning CPAC straw polls for president is constantly kept behind the scenes. The same is true now as it was in 2008, when, despite having decent poll numbers, Republicans just stopped inviting him to the presidential debates.
They knew. They knew Paul’s Libertarian message resonated and could flat-out fracture the party.
Flash forward. Ron Paul is still winning CPAC polls, but Rand Paul (his son) is grabbing headlines. Sarah Palin is a momma-grizzly of a factor, Glenn Back attracts more followers than Al Gore, and Tea Partiers are on ballots across the nation. In another ironic twist that is only trumped by the party being bi-based, there is now a glass ceiling for the established Republican Party.
They put a check on themselves. Example: Delaware.
But this is no time for Democrats to start snickering. In fact, there is cause for concern. If this can happen to Republicans, who are generally closeted about what makes them different from each other, this can certainly happen to the traditionally spacey Democrats. The question is, where will the divide, or divides, fall?
There is certainly a case for energy issues to be a dividing line. A cap-and-trade energy policy, or even some form of it, may garner support of corporate Democrats who would like to see new derivatives markets develop, or an entirely new economic sector emerge. But, what about strict environmentalists? If renewable energy means damming a river, killing migrating birds, disrupting tortoises, or wind-milling scenic vistas, will they be on board?
And let's not act like energy policy is the only issue lefties are feeling disenfranchised over. “Don’t ask don’t tell,” remains the default policy for homosexuals serving in the military. This, two years into a period when Democrats have controlled the White House and Congress. Two years in, aid to the developing world, which the President Obama has said he wanted to double, remains in limbo. Then there are these other small issues called immigration and joblessness. It seems establishment Democrats are avoiding dealing with the latter and simply hoping for improvements in the former. Meanwhile, trade deficits and national deficits climb.
Those who voted for Democrats because of the issues above are asking the same question President Obama asked Republicans when pleading for passage of the healthcare package: “If not now, when?”
The same types of rumblings that Ron Paul started underneath Republicans in 2008 are beginning to rattle under Barack Obama.
But will the White House succeed where the Republican establishment failed? Can the president keep the sleeping giants below from erupting and damaging election outcomes? It may not be up to him. Instead, the different factions will decide if it’s better to lose and be heard or win and be ignored.