Saturday, April 14, 2018

Republican Self-Immolation

Can Republicans destroy themselves? In the face of daunting prospects in November, can the GOP ensure its own defeat? Don't bet against it.

No sweat in Collier County, where elections are determined in the GOP primary. But elsewhere, nationally and at the Florida state level, the Republicans are in big trouble. Some of the problem is self-inflicted.

A good example was a recent rant by Rep. Francis Rooney, our very own congressman, who apparently hates Republicans and Democrats with almost equal fervor. He is an equal-opportunity offender. He certainly offended me.

In a raving and incoherent speech to a packed room of presumed believers, Rooney in short order trashed the pharmaceutical industry, dissed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, disparaged the U.S. petroleum industry and discredited every Republican who didn't hew to Rooney's wobbly far-right conservative line.

His attack on Big Pharma was a stunner. Astonishingly, he called for price controls on drugs, so-called most-favored nations pricing. Forget about the free market. Let's start penalizing American industry. And why just the drug business? Let's control pricing on cars, appliances, computers. No reason to stop with drugs, those life-saving nuisances that Rooney apparently disdains.

But he wasn't through. Rooney went on to attack the petroleum industry ("Louisiana is a subsidiary of  Shell Oil.") The environmental left has to love this. Throwing Trump under the bus, Rooney blithely ignored the fact that the U.S. is now energy independent, no longer under the thumbs of foreign tyrants for our power supply, thanks to remarkable advances in oil and natural gas production.

But the assault on drugs and home-grown power were not the worst of it. Rooney went on to savage, yes savage, other Republicans starting with Mitch McConnell and extending to John McCain and Susan Collins and every other moderate in the GOP ranks he could think of. If you weren't part of the far-right cabal, you weren't a real Republican. "The Republicans don't really control the Senate," he said. There are too many pretenders out there, Republicans in name only, moderates who don't toe the line.

And you know what? He's right.

Democrats, most now well to the left, are united in their beliefs. We Republicans are all over the place. We don't march in lock step to Trump and certainly not to the likes of Rooney.

So what, you say. Does it really matter? I think it does. Internecine attacks will have an impact in November. Several years ago, the Collier County Republican Executive Committee came close to expelling a moderate from its ranks and, in so doing, caused a rift that resulted in the election of several liberal school board members. Actions have consequences.

Will there be mass defections to the Democrats this year? I don't think so. But GOP fund-raising will suffer, and I suspect a good many of us will leave spaces unchecked on the November ballot.

For Rick Scott and the GOP gubernatorial candidate to win in November, they are going to need every vote they can muster, including votes from "not real Republicans" like me.

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