John Boehner (left) has lost control of the Republican Party, but Democratic leadership could potentially save the GOP.
The Republican Party is two parties and this is becoming more and more apparent with every passing day of the government shutdown. The Republican Party of years past was plenty conservative, but at the end of the day they were willing to make deals across the aisle to avoid inflicting needless pain on the country by, say, shutting down the government. This is not the case with the new wing of the Republican Party: the Tea Party. Since 2010, the Republican Party has been stuck between embracing and fighting the Tea Party, and the result is that the Tea Party now drives the agenda of the Republican Party. Even before the government officially shutdown, the Tea Party had thrown molasses in the gears. It may be up to the Democrats to save the Republican Party, and there’s a simple way they can do it.
When Republicans won big in 2010, they took over a lot of state houses just in time to redraw district lines (which every state does every ten years after the census). They carved districts that made most Republican seats very safe, so that any Republican who won the primary in that district would waltz to victory in the general election, simply because there are many districts where no Democrat has any real shot against a Republican (and of course, other districts are just the opposite). It this process, known as gerrymandering, that allowed Republicans to maintain a substantial majority in the House of Representatives (232-200), despite Democrats getting more House votes in the 2012 election.
So, with all that as preamble, here is how Democrats can save the Republican Party: don’t run candidates in districts where they have no chance. Instead, recruit people somewhere near the middle of the political spectrum to run as independents. The idea is that these candidates would be able to form a coalition of Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents. In states with open primaries, which allow any voter to request a ballot for either party in the primary, Democrats could simply vote for the most moderate Republican instead of a Democrat that has no chance in the general election.
Would this work? Not every time, but it would work some of the time, and it would show that there is an appetite for relatively moderate Republicans who can work with both parties. The Republican Party would regain its clout against the Tea Party. The Democrats would get an opposition party they could actually work with. Everyone wins. Except the Tea Party, but most of us would say that they have won enough. In fact, enough of us believe that the Tea Party has won enough, that a coordinated effort to wrest control of the Republican Party from them would be welcomed on both sides.