Usually when it is time for a presidential election, both parties have a tendency to put their more moderate faces forward, especially when it comes to elections that require a wider voter base in order to win. Yet as the 2016 campaign season gets underway, we are seeing more signs than ever that not only does the Republican party seem prepared to stay far to the right, in some cases they may move even further in that direction. From primaries to party leaders, Tea Partiers are becoming the predominate face of the GOP. That could mean a party ready to crumble if it becomes too extreme or, even more frightening, that today’s Congress may actually be more “moderate” than the Congress that convenes in 2017.
Here are 4 stories that show the GOP may be going further right than ever before.
1) John McCain is getting primaried. You would think that the man good enough to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2008 wouldn’t have a problem getting reelected, especially not with a massive number of Senate terms behind him. Yet now that Arizona Sen. John McCain has officially declared he will seek reelection, his party is trying to find someone to challenge him. First among likely challengers is state Sen. Kelli Ward, who considers McCain too friendly to immigration and who bemoans the fact that Medicaid expansion passed in the state and the Affordable Care Act hasn’t been overturned. Arizona is currently one of the fastest states for ACA enrollment in the country.
2) Oklahoma put a “Tea party favorite” in charge of the GOP. When a party is failing, it is a fantastic time to change leadership. But when they’ve had one of the most successful election seasons ever, you leave it alone, right? Not if you are in Oklahoma, where the Republican party just ousted their state chair, even though the previous state chair led the GOP to win pretty much every race. “The Oklahoma Republican Party ousted its chairman on Saturday,” reports Public Radio Tulsa. “The move came despite the party’s November election success in increasing its majority control of both chambers of the state Legislature, winning every statewide elected office, all five U.S. House and both U.S. Senate seats.” The new chair is a “tea party favorite” who, according to the news station, lost both of his last two statewide campaigns. That bodes well.
3) Ellmers could get ousted for thinking rape victims should be allowed abortions. When Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina “sabotaged” the 20 week abortion vote in the House by complaining that the restriction of when a rape victim could obtain an exception was too onerous, anti-abortion advocacy groups swore she would pay the price in her next race. Now, a challenger has announced his intention to wrestle the GOP nomination from her come 2016. Jim Duncan is a past chairman of a local Republican Party, which should put him in the perfect spot to get the party endorsement. Then again, according to Ellmers’ campaign spokesman, Patrick Sebastian, “the Chatham County Board of Commissioners went from a 60 percent Republican majority to a 20 percent minority after the November elections during Duncan’s tenure as party chairman.”
4) Speaker Boehner? Yes, even he is too moderate. Even being the Speaker of the House isn’t protecting anyone from the GOP extremists, as Ohio Republican and Speaker of the House John Boehner finds himself prepping for another primary, too. Of course, on the surface J.D. Winteregg doesn’t seem very imposing as a political rival — especially not when he already tried to challenge Boehner in the last primary and won a mere 23 percent of the vote. But Winteregg says this year is different — for one thing, he isn’t starting his campaign just two months before the primary like he did before. One other thing that is different – Boehner has been feeling some heat from the anti-abortion wing of the conservative movement who have felt he has been holding up a new 20 week ban vote. He may not be in the danger that, say, Ellmers is in, but it’s another sure sign that even today’s conservatives are looking a little too moderate for their GOP backers.