Like so many stars past their prime, the GOP seems headed for disaster. Not so long ago, things were looking up for the Republican Party. Senate Republicans were successfully obstructing Obama at every turn; Republicans won two gubernatorial races and the special senate election in Massachusetts. Since then, the train has begun to derail.
The first warning was the special election in NY-23. A Republican-held seat since the 19th century, it was the GOP’s seat to lose—and lose it they did. The far-right voices in and outside the GOP questioned the wisdom of blindly following the establishment Republicans. So, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman overtook Republican Dede Scozzafava in the polls, and Scozzafava dropped out, endorsing Democrat Bill Owens in the process. Owens went on to win the seat.
Now, something similar looks to be playing out in Florida. Current governor and former Senatorial shoe-in Charlie Crist is trailing primary challenger and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio by about 20 points. Assuming he wants to avoid a certain loss, Crist has three choices: 1) Drop out, 2) become a Democrat, or 3) run as an independent. Choice one seems, as you might imagine, less than desirable. He could pull a Scozzafava, but that would certainly ruin his chances to ever run as a Republican again. Choice two (the Arlen Specter, as I'll call it) is problematic as well, since there is already a Democrat, Kendrick Meek, running for the seat. Meek polls fairly well against Rubio, trailing by four points in a recent Quinnipiac survey. That leaves choice three, which at the moment is Crist’s best bet for self-preservation. The same Quinnipiac poll has Crist narrowly winning a three-way race. Perhaps Meek could even be persuaded to drop out if it looks like it’s Crist or Rubio toward the end.
Meanwhile, things are falling apart for Mitch McConnell on the Hill. The Minority Leader’s control of his party seems to be waning as Senate Republicans ponder the wisdom of supporting or even seeming to support the giant financial corporations that so recently decimated the American economy. As members began publicly stating their intention to join the Democrats at some point in the process, Sen. McConnell quickly changed his tune from threatening a filibuster to announcing a deal. As long as President Obama chooses his agenda carefully, I suspect that financial regulatory reform won’t be the last issue to fracture GOP senators.
Where will this all lead? Maybe nowhere. The American public certainly has the memory for that. If, however, Republicans continue to embrace the most extreme elements of their party, to run Tea Party favorites in competitive races, and blindly obstruct Congressional progress, I like to think that there will be consequences. And with politicians in Nevada and Tennessee espousing the barter system as the answer to our healthcare woes, I must say, I am hopeful.