The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Local Republican Party faces national issues


In an article on Nov. 8 this year, The New York Times carried a story about an unease brewing below the surface of the Republican Party nationwide even after it took control of Congress for the first time in eight years. The unease, reporter Jeremy Peters wrote, was coming from sharp tension between mainstream Republicans and its far more conservative Tea Party faction.

He might well have been talking about Klickitat County.

While they don’t overtly refer to themselves as Tea Party associates, several candidates and their supporters in the recent county elections can be clearly identified as well to the right of mainstream Republicans. Like most Tea Party candidates at the national level, they did not fare well locally. And like those national-level party constituents, they seem to be poised for ongoing battle.

But so are the mainstream Republicans—both nationally and locally. Many of them at both levels are incensed at what they see as a virtual coup of their party by the far right.

The jargon of the Tea Party and their fellow travelers is readily identifiable: you hear such comments as “we don’t need another moderate,” “we keep our oaths,” and “government has no business doing anything other than getting out of the way.” Their platform often consists chiefly of deferring all matters to the letter of the Constitution, stripping government of all activity that does not simply adhere strictly to that revered document. Most mainstream Republicans don’t have issues with a lot of that sentiment; where attitudes take sharp turns from each other are generally over practical implementation and over-zealousness of literal interpretation.

Locally, the issues in the county are also over what is seen by mainstreamers as a heavy-handed hijacking of the party and the sheer mental ineptitude with which it is done.

“They’re angry and they think they have a right to push for what they want in whatever way they need to,” says one Republican moderate. The people with which The Sentinel spoke about this issue did so on condition of anonymity for the time being. No one from the more conservative faction would speak with The Sentinel at all.

“They are out of control,” another moderate states. “They think they’ve taken over the county Republican Party. They act first and think later because they’re so sure they’re right. They’ve mounted campaigns that were just vicious and destructive—and then their so-called facts are proven wrong. But they still think they’re right.”

“You just can’t reason with them,” says a third moderate.

These are sentiments reflected at the national level as well. Incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell trounced his Tea Party candidate in the primary election by a margin of 60 percent to 35 percent. McConnell calls the Tea Party “for-profit conservatives,” because of the extensive fundraising they do “in the name of purifying the Republican brand,” Peters’ New York Times article reports. He adds a telling quote: “‘The for-profit wing of the Republican Party will always have a voice, but after this last election, they don’t have much credibility,’ said Scott Reed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s senior political strategist.” But his article is also about resistance rising from an aggrieved Tea Party, saying the group wants no compromise from the Republican Party with the White House and insisting it take a hard line with issues such as ObamaCare.

Mainstream Republicans nationally asserted they would keep the Tea Party from fomenting a full-scale civil war within the Republican Party. The trend in recent elections—again both nationally and locally—indicate they have been successful so far. Here in Klickitat County, eyes will be keenly focused on upcoming Republican Party meetings, especially as an election for a new party leader is slated to occur before the end of the year.


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