The Problem with Ideological Purity

A recent post at Political Animal made a point I’ve pondered frequently as I’ve watched the GOP morph from political party to religious cult.

After a brief discussion of the attack on Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, the post considered the implications of the GOP’s refusal to bend even when voters are likely to punish them for that intransigence:

The most striking fact when it comes to women and birth control is this one: 99 percent of sexually active women use it.

Pundits have often pointed out that historically, neither party tends to dominate the political system for very long. The reason for this is that, like how corporations exist to make money, political parties exist to win elections, and if the party keeps taking positions that alienate huge fractions of the electorate, then they’ll change those positions.

But the GOP isn’t doing this. After the 2012 defeat, driven in large part by being absolutely crushed in practically every minority demographic, Republicans halfheartedly tried to choke down an immigration reform bill to at least stop the bleeding. President Obama signaled his support, and the Senate passed a half-decent measure. But now reform looks dead because House Republicans refuse to let the Senate bill come up for a vote. For the GOP, it’s almost the worst of all worlds: a bill supported by all the prominent Democrats goes down due to extremist Republican intransigence. Now Democrats get to blame the GOP for breaking their promise, and quite possibly increase their share of the minority vote. It would have been better to not do anything.

Something similar looks to be happening for women’s issues. Ken Cuccinelli just went down in the Virginia governor’s race largely due to his antediluvian views on women’s rights. The party as a whole would be best served by this debate just going away. But extremists have strongly-held beliefs, and don’t particularly care about clear-eyed electoral cost-benefit calculations.

Here in Indiana, the culture-warrior contingent of the state GOP remains adamant about the need to pass HJR6, despite pretty convincing evidence that their position is costing them support–especially among the younger voters they will increasingly need.

Politics is the art of compromise. Religion, of course, is a matter of faith. To describe today’s Republican party as “Faith Based” is accurate–but it is not a compliment. It’s another way to suggest that the party’s current course is suicidal.


  1. “Politics is the art of compromise.” This term translates to bipartisansim. Anyone who read and understood Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope” knows full well this is the basis of his book and he has tried – against all odds – to hold fast to that “Audacity”. This is why I continue to support our President Obama and this is why those who have turned on him believe he has failed in this second term. Compromise is a word unknown to the GOP; thanks to Boehner’s bought-and-paid-for position as Speaker of the House, Tea Party money is still holding this country hostage on vital issues. Now, Democrats in the Senate are balking at signing the bill to pass the budget which will resolve many – but not all – financial problems this nation faces. Have they joined the “faith based” GOP and believe they are chasing the money changers from the temple? Or do they actually believe all problems can be resolved by not passing this bill? THERE IS NO ONE SOLUTION TO THIS FINANCIAL DILEMMA!

    As for Indiana; this state is a lost cause at this point in time. We have a governor who is trying to run this state like a poor man who has suddenly come into vast wealth and is flinging OUR money away with both hands on frivolous sports venues and spiffing up parts of downtown for a possible second Super Bowl. Now he is attempting to cut off a prime source of tax dollars to provide necessities such as public education, public safety and repairing our collapsing infrastructure (which is used and damaged by these businesses) and at the same time proposing spending more tax dollars that won’t be there if he gets his way. He began his term probably by following a blueprint left by the Daniels administration and is now working in his own baseless ideology to leave as his legacy to the state. We can only hope – and fervently pray – he is a one-term governor and will be gone before he can accomplish his destructive path to nowhere. We have Ballard leasing and selling off parts of this city’s assets while adding nothing to this city of what he considers “profit” by doing so. This rock and a hard place is crushing Indianapolis and Indiana with no end in sight.

  2. It is only suicidal if looking at national races. It is the opposite, an act of survival, for anything else. The 2010 election, which will eventually be studied as one of the most important in American history, allowed Republicans to redistrict everything short of Senate and Presidential races. The result? An overwhelming majority of seats, in both State and Federal elections, that are won by the candidate dancing closest to the edge of the very ugliest of right wing fantasies, from religion to guns to brown people coming to take jobs and white women away. In those districts the fight isn’t over “Choice” or “Life.” The fight is over whether abortion should be treated as 1st degree murder for the doctor, or whether the mother should be executed, too.

  3. The Repubs have successfully solicited support from Church based hate groups since Nixons Souther Strategy. The basic plan is pretty simple.
    If you hate Blacks, join us and vote Republican Then…
    If you gate GAYS, join us and vote Republican Then…
    If you hate brown folks, join us and vote Republican
    It worked GREAT for over 3 Decades. A small group of haters
    kept the Rich and Powerful white folks in charge of everything.
    Perpetual war = Perpetual profits for them all
    Now maybe the Church folks are going to bite the Republicans in the butt.
    I sure hope so. Serves them right.

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