A True Upheaval is Growing in the Republican Party

A True Upheaval is Growing in the Republican Party

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.


Two Republican Senators made front page news in today’s New York Times: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  They appeared in two different stories, but the thrust of both stories was that no matter who is elected President there is a major political shift brewing in the land and it will take no prisoners. Senator Paul appears to be emerging–more quietly than his father– as a clear voice for a new Republican Party and Senator Hatch might be fading out as the conservative voice of an old Republican Party.

In his homestate of Kentucky alone, Senator Paul has been instrumental in taking the enthusiasts from his father’s presidential campaign this year and bring them now into the grassroots level of politics where he is successfully making dramatic inroads. The Paulites, as the followers of Representative Ron Paul call themselves, are working all over the country. They are now actively finding candidates who will challenge incumbent Republicans; are arranging sizeable, indirect support for them from Super-pacs; and are beginning to win nominations for House and Senate seats. In addition, they are being selected to be portions of the Republican delegates in more and more GOP convention delegations. While they will not prevent a Romney nomination in Tampa, they undoubtedly will be heard from and will affect the tone of the convention as well as influence the fall campaign.

Senator Hatch on the other hand with virtually impeccable conservative Republican credentials is facing his first Republican Party primary challenge since he entered the Senate 36 years ago. It has happened already in Indiana where Senator Richard Lugar lost in a Republican primary to a Tea Partyer, Richard Mourdock, and also in Nebraska where the Tea Party candidate Deb Fischer defeated the Republican Party picked candidate. Now Hatch, another old guard conservative is facing a very serious challenge from a Tea Party follower Dan Liljenquist.

While there are numerous area where both the Paulites and the Tea Partyers agree and many which they do not, in the foreign policy field they appear—and it is hard to be certain at this point—to favor at best a neo-isolationist approach to America’s involvement in the world. This is true with respect to foreign aid, to combating terrorism, and to U.S. military engagements.  Not only does isolationism not bode well for a continued strong U.S.-Israel relationship (which Ron Paul’s personal record speaks too) but isolationist historical were not very sympathetic to Jews or any minorities.

Taken together this very active grassroots activity in the Republican Party from two different sources could pose a fundamental challenge to the direction of the nation probably not seen since the New Deal.  Given the stalemate approach to governing most evident during the past few years between Congress and the President, these movements, should they succeed, will present a monumental problem in the governing ability next January of not only a re-elected Obama but  also a newly elected Romney.

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