Is the Tennessee GOP’s Personality Changing?

An insightful (I think) Frank Cagle column poses this question in its headline, “Will most Republicans go along with extreme positions to avoid the ‘moderate’ tag?” An excerpt:
If the sparse polling data available is correct, Mitt Romney is not likely to get as large a margin in solidly Republican Tennessee as John McCain did in 2008. Perhaps voters are not as excited about Romney, or perhaps they aren’t quite as rabidly anti-Barack Obama as the first time around.
After all, a black man was elected president and the world didn’t end. (Though from looking at some of my e-mail, there are those people who think it did.)
But has the personality of the Republican Party changed?
Here in traditionally Republican East Tennessee we tend to be more fiscally conservative and less intense on social issues. Middle Tennessee has become the hotbed of radical on-the-march anti-immigration, anti-abortion conservatism and it is an area more in tune with the perception of what the national party has become.
…The problems of the national Republican Party with minorities and women have largely been created by a minority of Republicans in state legislatures. There are religious conservatives who bring legislation primarily designed to make abortions harder to obtain. These bills make it harder for women’s clinics that provide abortions to exist. (A lack of hospital privileges closed a clinic in Knoxville.)
But clinics also provide other health services for women, many of them poor. Will such legislation turn off many women, and many young people, who will view the Republican Party as harsh and anti-women? It makes the face of the party white male state legislators who want to subjugate women.
I sometimes wonder if Tennessee is as conservative as its politics suggest. It may be that the ultra-conservative positions, that may give the national Republicans grief, play well in our state.
Or is it that the extreme branch of the state Republican Party has more passion and more ability to whip up the base than the mainstream Republicans? We have reached a point where even being considered “mainstream” or, God help you, “moderate” can be a mortal blow to a Republican politician.
In the next session of the Legislature we are likely to see a good bit of more extreme legislation than we have seen before. The question will be whether the traditional Republicans will have the courage to vote against “vaginal probes” or whether they go along to get along to avoid being labeled as not being conservative enough.

One thought on “Is the Tennessee GOP’s Personality Changing?

  1. Eric Holcombe

    “…the perception of what the national party has become.” “We have reached a point where even being considered “mainstream” or, God help you, “moderate” can be a mortal blow to a Republican politician.”
    One only has to look as far as the U.S. Senate Republican primary results or the rigged Boehner teleprompter convention (and the silence of the TNGOP) to refute that argument.
    Frank steered clear of the one subject that actually cost a Republican incumbent their seat (mortal blow?).

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