For the right, the only mistake is in working outside a rigid ideological fence. As long as you stay within this fence -- no matter how badly this restriction is hampering you -- you're golden. Move outside that fence and you become a "Republican In Name Only" or a RINO. If you're a moderate, you're a RINO. If you're an ideologue on all but one issue, you're a RINO. If ever in your life you've been forced to accept reality and acknowledge global warming or the failure of unregulated capitalism or the healthcare crisis, you're a RINO. It's funny, but people on the right like to see themselves as rugged individualists, but expect every one of their increasingly shrinking coalition to be exactly the same. You can be as individual as you want to be, so long as you think the same things and believe the same things as all the other rightwingers. Have an independent thought, conclude that what you're trying isn't working, and they fire you out of the coalition in a cannon.
In 2006, I wrote a post I titled "Coalition of the Barely Willing" where I pointed out this Republican groupthink. Having just suffered massive losses at the polls, the party was arranging itself into the infamous "circular firing squad" that political movements tend to fall into when things go all haywire. It wasn't the first time I'd written about the Republican demand for ideological purity among its ranks -- and this post won't be the last. It's a mistake Republicans refuse to learn from.
It tends to happen most after a big loss. Another common Republican belief is that if what you're doing isn't working, it's because you're not doing enough of it. The Republican Party hasn't lost big in two straight elections because they've been too right wing, they've lost because they haven't been right wing enough. You heard it after McCain lost; the GOP had to return to it's "roots." Unfortunately, they didn't mean it's actual roots -- i.e., the progressivism and dedication to human rights of Lincoln -- they meant what they like to pretend are their roots -- the party of a Ronald Reagan who exists only in their imaginations. In truth, those roots go back to Sen. Joseph McCarthy and we see the return to those roots in the rise of the teabaggers and Glenn Beck.
About to be handed a big loss on healthcare reform, the right is falling back into old habits. Intolerance of any dissent within the ranks is rampant and the circular firing squad is already forming.
"We will be a headache for anyone who believes the Constitution of the United States… isn't to be protected," said Dick Armey, chairman of the anti-tax and limited government advocacy group FreedomWorks, which helped plan and promote the tea parties, town hall protests and the September 'Taxpayer March' in Washington. "If you can't take it seriously, we will look for places of other employment for you."
"We're not a partisan organization, and I think many Republicans are disappointed we are not," added Armey, a former GOP congressman
Everyone in a circle? OK... Now here's your ammo...
The Politico piece goes on to report that teabaggers are targeting Republican candidates in Florida, Connecticut, and Colorado. And, after yesterday's vote on the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare reform bill, we can add Maine.
Erik Erikson, RedState.com:
Olympia Snowe has sold out the country. Having been banished to our world after Aslan chased her out of Narnia, Snowe is intent on corrupting this place too.
So we should melt her.
What melts snow? Rock salt.
I'm going to ship this 5 pound bag of rock salt to her office in Maine. It's only $3.00. You should join me.
It is a visible demonstration of our contempt for her. First she votes for the stimulus. Now this.
Somewhat more subtle than a severed horse's head in her bed, but the message is pretty much the same. At a time when the Republican Party is shrinking, the base wants to shrink it more.
Another emerging target is South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. "[A]fter voting to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and expressing a willingness to build a compromise approach to clean energy legislation, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) appears to be the new target of tea party activists," reports Think Progress. "At a Graham town hall in Greenville yesterday, activist Harry Kimball of 'RINO HUNT' protested by constructing a display that depicted Graham, as well as moderates like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), being flushed down a toilet..."
Local paper Greenville News reports that this public event turned into a "We hate Lindsey" mob, with Graham being accused of having "betrayed" conservatism in a "pact with the devil" by working with Democrats. One woman with a sign accusing Graham of joining in with "unconstitutional, anti-Christ, socialist, federal, deficit-spending programs," told him "God does not compromise" and that he'd violated his oath of office. There were accusations of treason -- not rhetorical treason, but actual, legal treason.
"In the always-helpful VoteView analysis, Graham is the 83rd most conservative senator in the current Congress, meaning only 17 senators are to his right," writes Steve Benen. "Graham is not only more conservative that most of the Senate, he's more conservative than most Republicans. This year, based solely on his voting record, Graham is to the right of notable conservatives like John Thune, Sam Brownback, and Mitch McConnell."
But Lindsey Graham isn't a conservative anymore. He, like Snowe, is a turncoat for wanting to actually get something done. If the teabaggers have their way, the Republican Party will continue to shrink. But as it shrinks, it becomes purer. And purity is everything. There is no room for people who want to compromise in the Republican Party, no matter how conservative their voting records. There is no room for pragmatists, for moderates, for realists. Only "right thinking" robots need apply. And, as the GOP becomes more rigid in their philosophy, they become less attractive to voters who actually want problems solved.
The good news for Democrats here should be obvious. But the bad news for the country is that the Republican Party is intent on getting crazier. The right should see that as bad news too, but in their myopic obsession with ideological purity, they're just looking for RINOs to shoot.
They can't see anything else.
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