For the past few election cycles, there has been a phrase one has heard from both Southern states’ Democrats and Northern states’ Republicans – “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me.” It defined the reason politicans were switching parties or leaving politics all together. Now, it is a phrase being repeated by moderate Republicans who are realizing that the extreme may be playing well to the Republican base, but it is driving Independents to the Democrats. Mitt Romney, who is more or less establishment Republican, has won more than 50% of the votes in only eight of the 33 primaries and caucuses held so far. The Party has left its moderates.
Female Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas have attacked the party for the “war on women.” They understand that it’s all about the perceptions in a campaign, and the Party’s image is badly damaged with women. Instead of jobs, the Party has focused its energies on anti-abortion and anti-contraception laws. Male party members and their honored media wonks have been incredibly insensitive in discussing women.
Murkowski spoke at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday, and told her audience that “It makes no sense to make this attack on women. If you don’t feel this is an attack, you need to go home and talk to your wife and your daughters.” Murkowski is the latest Senator to renounce her own vote on the Blunt Amendment which would have allowed employers to deny any health care option they had a “moral objection” to. She said she will now fight for funding for Planned Parenthood and went after the candidates for the Republican nomination for President, particularly on the issue of Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke, saying, “To have those kind of slurs against a woman…you had candidates who want to be our president not say, ‘That’s wrong. That’s offensive.’ They did not condemn the rhetoric.
Hutchinson and Snowe have announced they are retiring instead of running for another term. Murkowski defended her seat in 2010 and is not due for re-election until 2016. These women have nothing to lose by standing against their party and much to gain in respect for their integrity.
The Republican devotion to the Norquist “No Tax” pledge has suffered even more defections than the “war on women.” The latest Republican Congressman to waiver over the pledge is Iowa’s Steve King. On Thursday, he told a town hall meeting in his rural district that he didn’t know what he would do if taxes were cut too much. He was answering a question about why Congress has been so determined to cut taxes on the rich and no relief for the middle class. King has never been confused for a moderate, but compared to Tea Party darlings like Jason Chaffetz of Utah, King is practically a liberal.
King joined Timothy Johnson of Illinois, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Charles Boustany of Louisiana, Mike Simpson of Idaho, Frank Wolf of Virginia and John Bear of Pennsylvania in admitting that at some point they have to put the best interests of the country over the terms of the Norquist Pledge that they all signed. When they would reach that point is not something that any of them are willing to put in concrete, but even talking about the existence of a point is heretical for Republicans.
It was predicted during the 2008 election that the Tea Party could shatter the Republican Party. It’s not the Tea Party at this point. Many Tea Party members at state levels are complaining that their message has been perverted by the right wing of the Republican Party. This election cycle is exposing too many things about the party – the association with specific special interests, the way Citizens United hides donors, the diversion of going after reproductive rights instead of doing something about the economy, the attack on labor unions. The loudest voices in the party are the ones farthest on the right, the ones that reek of sexism and racism, the ones that make obscenely extreme accusations against the Democrats and the President, the ones that are making the party look crazy. The best thing to come out of their primary circus may be the way some Republicans are being to see their party as others see them – totally out of their freaking minds.