By Ryan Buffa | email@example.com
The great divide in politics is no longer only between Democrats and Republicans, but within the Grand Old Party itself.
Rachel Cremona, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science at Flagler College, believes this was especially evident after the State of the Union address on Feb. 12 when both the Republican Party and the Tea Party held separate responses.
“People are realizing that the Republican Party is very badly fragmented,” Cremona said. “They have gotten to the point where they need to have a label of extreme Tea Party or moderate Republican.”
According to Cremona, the only way Republicans can win general elections now is by compromising and moving toward the middle. In past elections, however, the Tea Party has dictated conservative Republican candidates who won in the primaries, but who failed to appeal to independents in the general election and therefore lost.
As a consequence, Republican heavyweight, Karl Rove, is backing the Conservative Victory Project, which grants anonymity to its donors. The group supports Republican candidates who appeal to various voters and can win general elections.
Many political analysts say this is the beginning of a GOP civil war.
“The Tea Party is turning Americans off and the Republican Party should ditch them if they want to win,” Cremona said. “It’s the only way they can [win].”
However, not all conservatives see a divide in the Republican Party, but rather view it as a new way to deliver the party’s message.
“I don’t think they want to outrun the Tea Party. I hope they’re not,” St. Johns County Republican Chairman Sean Mulhall said of the Conservative Victory Project. “I think they are making sure that people who donate big money, and the Republican Party, aren’t going to be embarrassed by a candidate.”
Despite the concern of winning elections, many local Republicans do not believe that abandoning conservative ideologies is key to winning elections.
“There isn’t a Tea Party and a Republican Party. We are all conservatives fighting for the same thing. I really don’t like the different labeling,” St. Johns County Republican State Committeewoman Becky Reichenberg said.
According to Reichenberg, the Republican Party is not divided despite what the media report. To her, the Republican Party is simply diverse.
“I think we need to stick to our ideologies and that’s what sets us apart and defines who we are. And if we change who we are then we are not doing anyone any good,” Reichenberg said.
Mulhall agrees that abandoning conservative ideologies to appeal to more voters is not the answer.
“I think you should be who you are. I don’t think we can just say that all Republicans should all be moderate. The candidate has to define him or herself. It’s not a question of appearing more moderate to appeal to independents, but to appeal over the opposition and have a message that resonates with the majority of voters,” Mulhall said.
As for executive director of the First Coast Tea Party, Leanne King, the Tea Party and the Republican Party are separate organizations with similar missions. However, King agrees that each organization should stay true to their independent values.
“Even though we don’t see eye to eye on things, we still see the greater mission,” King said. “The Republican Party and the Tea Party are not at war because we have the same vision for America.”
King believes that although the GOP is changing, the Tea Party needs to be understanding of those changes while remaining ideologically pure.
“We fight this battle for America and all that she stands for, and we can be much more effective if we all work together to achieve that goal,” King said. ” There are more things that unite us than divide us.”