Editorial: The way of the Whigs — Internal struggle of the GOP hints at some historical events
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Nov 01, 2013 | 2083 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Matt Kibbe, CEO of Tea Party-aligned FreedomWorks, boasted recently on the MSNBC show Hardball that his group would help Tea Party conservatives take over the Republican Party within a year.

With FreedomWorks all but bankrupt and its sponsors apparently cutting contributions, we might think this is a hollow promise. Daily Beast correspondent Michael Tomasky called Kibbe’s boast “delusional” and pointed out that the Tea Party hurt some of the GOP’s chances in states such as New York and California. However, FreedomWorks feels it can more than make up for what moderate Republicans lost in those states by making some changes in the makeup of the Southern GOP.

“I think we should upgrade from a lot of the Republicans who haven’t done what it takes to get this done,” Kibbe told MSNBC host Chris Matthews — “this” being passing the Tea Party social and economic agenda.

Matthews pressed Kibbe to identify Republicans who were targeted for “upgrading” and asked if the list would include Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Kibble would not deny that those senators are targeted, and he added that “we’re in the process of re-populating the Republican Party with people that stand for something,” which apparently means standing for, rather than opposing, what the Tea Party wishes to do.

Since the MSNBC interview, FreedomWorks has endorsed Cochran’s primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, even though (or maybe because) McDaniel attended a neo-Confederate conference in Laurel, Miss., last August.

After the Tea Party wing of the GOP made such a mess of defunding Obamacare, which led to the subsequent government shutdown, there has been an effort by Tea Party supporters to blame Republicans outside the fold rather themselves for the debacle.

It follows that if those outside will not come in, they must be purged. So the Tea Party is seeking far-right candidates to oppose the “outsiders” in the upcoming primaries and thus “re-populate” the party.

Pundits of all stripes have sought historical parallels for what is occurring in the GOP today, but at present it appears that Republicans have a lot in common with the Whig Party in the 1840s and 1850s. Unable to find a common ground on the issue of the expansion of slavery, Whigs divided. Those in the north called themselves “Conscience Whigs” — claiming that their “conscience” told them to oppose slavery. They called the southern wing of the party “Cotton Whigs” because (northerners claimed) cotton was all they cared about.

The two sides grew more bitter in their opposition to each other. Finally, the Whig Party collapsed.

It is too early to say this will happen to the Republicans, but if the internal struggle continues it does not bode well for the Grand Old Party.
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