Could This Be the End of the Republican Party?

My wife Sandra thinks I’m crazy. One reason is my belief that the Republican Party is about to be fragmented and might cease to exist altogether. As far as she is concerned the Republican Party has always been and always will be. Not that she’s a Republican. Heaven forbid! She is a progressive Democrat, one of those dreaded liberals you read about from time to time. But there have been Republicans as long as she can remember, and she figures they will always be there for her to kick around.

I point out (in vain) that throughout history, political parties have come and gone, morphing and regrouping as popular tastes and notions evolved. Indeed, there were at least three political groups calling themselves the Republican Party in early American history. They were succeeded by the Whigs, a powerful party from about 1824 to 1854. But there are no Whigs today.

newtMy conviction that the Republican Party is about to implode was heightened by a letter Newt Gingrich (photo at right) wrote recently. You remember Newt? He was the (Republican) Speaker of the House a while back. Quite a powerful guy – until details of his private life started to leak out. Anyway, it seems Newt is prepping for a comeback.

In this letter I’m talking about, Newt chastised the chairman of the Republican Party, somebody named Mike Duncan, for an Internet ad suggesting Barack Obama is mixed up in the Blagojevich scandal. Newt said that the ad should be pulled immediately and that Republicans should be helping President-elect Obama address the country’s problems instead of taking pot shots at him.

Hey, I’m not hallucinating. Newt Gingrich said that. And Newt is not alone. John McCain (you remember him – Sarah Palin’s running mate?) is also calling for cooperation with Obama. Colin Powell, who endorsed Obama, is another Republican urging a bipartisan approach in this time of crisis. Even President Bush had kind words for Obama in a recent interview with Candy Crowley on CNN. Could a coalition be taking shape? That sort of thing has happened before, and it could happen again.

Meanwhile, a radical element in the Republican Party (as we know it) seems bent on alienating mainstream Americans. Made up mostly of representatives from the Deep South, these knuckleheads defied the White House and blocked a Senate plan to give the domestic auto industry a bridge loan, insisting on union busting demands they knew Democrats could not accept. (Check my earlier blogs for background information on the self-serving and short-sighted motives for their rebellion.)

And now that President Bush is trying to devise a scheme to keep the auto industry alive long enough to become Obama’s headache, the rebels are yelling at him to insist on the same union-busting conditions. The result of this rebellion has been to divide the North and South once again. Radio station hosts in Detroit are warning southerners to stay away from Michigan. Someone should remind the rebels of what happened to General Lee the last time the South reared its head.

Also, the Evangelicals are coalescing into a party of their own. Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee haunt TV land like the ghosts of elections past. Rush Limbaugh still rants and raves, and Fox News still spews far-right propaganda.

I can’t see how these disparate elements can find common ground in the Obama era. I know – politics makes strange bedfellows. But there’s got to be a limit.