The Urge to Purge
Tue February 11, 2014 1:01 pm

As stacks and stacks of money pile up in the Republican primary, and GOP candidates face an excrutiating election on March 4, the question of the moment is: Who's in charge of the Republican party? The answer could not be worse: it's Michael Quinn Sullivan. Sullivan is the driving force behind a movement to split the party into its moderate and far-right factions, with the ultimate objective of purging moderate R's friendly to speaker Joe Straus. Sullivan will win some victories on March 4, but in the end, his self-promoting power grab is unsustainable. Sooner or later, he will find himself surrounded by the enemies he has made on his climb to influence and power.

What I find surprising is that Greg Abbott shows no interest in healing his party. He appears to be indifferent to the threat of a permanent fissure in the state GOP, in which moderate, business-oriented local leaders turn their backs on the Republican party as a result of the extremism of Republican power-brokers. It wasn't that long ago that Democrats found how easy it was to erase the D after their name and replace it with an R. Sooner or later, the reverse of that process is going to bite the Republlicans. Don't take my word for it: just look at what happened to the Democrats in the seventies and eighties when the liberal and conservative wings of the party engaged in open warfare.

As the undisputed leader of his party, Abbott could, if he chose to do so, come forward and try to heal the breach in the GOP. But it may be too late for that. This is a party that is built on mud. All the energy in the Republican party is being spent on purges, not just in Texas but nationally. Long gone are the days when Ronald Reagan uttered his Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican. That is all but forgotten today. Abbott has chosen to align himself with the right wing of his party, but by doing so he has only extended the civil war that threatens to devour the party. When the election is over, and the split in the party remains unhealed, Abbott is going to find himself very short of friends in the legislative branch. Such is the nature of politics.

(AP Photo / Tony Gutierrez )

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