19 March 2005

Cracks in Florida GOP widen

Following the divisive vote in the Florida Senate on whether the government should intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, Florida Republicans are seeing the cracks in their political base widen. While an all-out civil war has not yet erupted within the state GOP, some argue that such a result may not be as far off as Republicans would like to believe.

As reported by today's Palm Beach Post, the vote in the state senate on whether the government should require life support against a patient's wishes has divided the Republican caucus which is typically united and willing to march lockstep behind its leadership. This is just the latest in the conflict within the Republican Party between the religious right and the party's libertarian and traditionally conservative wing which has continued for more than a decade. While this division has become more pronounced in recent years, it is nothing new.

During the 1992 Republican National Convention, conservative icon Patrick Buchanan declared declared a holy war against liberals and announced his alliance with the religious right against secular America. In a speech that alienated mainstream voters in middle America, Buchanan resorted to name calling and typical "us vs. them" rhetoric. The argument at the time, which now dominates the platform of the national Republican Party, is that organized religion is failing in this country and that it is the obligation of the government to dictate religious beliefs. Conservative columnist and blogger Andrew Sullivan has stated that the new position of the GOP is that of "big government moral conservatism." In recent years, the Republican Party has abandoned the positions of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, who famously declared in his first inaugural speech that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Today's Republicans are now addicted to the drug of big government.

Traditional conservatives within the GOP caucus in the Florida Senate stood up to the religious right this week and with the support of Senate Democrats, defeated legislation championed by the anti-abortion movement. Senator Nancy Argenziano (R- Crystal River) blamed the Christian fundamentalists' "machine" for "imposing their will on everybody else." Senator Dan Webster (R-Winter Garden) threatened retribution against traditional conservatives, and incoming Speaker Marco Rubio (R-Miami) insisted that comments by House members who voted against the bill be placed in the official record. Argenziano denounced the strategy used by the extremist members of her own Party, stating "It's completely un-Republican."

The divisions in the Republican Party are not necessarily good news for Florida Democrats. State Democrats have failed to articulate a clear position on the issue, and Party Chairman Scott Maddox sidestepped the issue, instead choosing this difficult week to kickstart his own campaign for governor. Whether the Democrats find their voice and actually stand for something is up to them. Simply waiting for the GOP wall to crumble is not an option for Democrats who want to be the majority party in Florida again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very true. Reagan's legacy in the Republican party is dead. As a former Republican, it saddens me to see this new face of the party.

4:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Tdog said...

It is interesting to see that the Republican Party is struggling over this issue, but it's kinda sad that the Dems don't even seem to care. I thought Howard Dean was supposed to give the Dems a backbone. I guess not!

8:27:00 PM  
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