On the eve of the first Democratic Party debate (CNN, 8:30 PM EST) being held in Las Vegas, the Grand Old Party (better known as the Republican Party) is looking less and less like one coherent group. The party is no longer legislating from the front, squandering its majorities in Congress by splitting largely into conservative and moderate voting blocs.
With a new wide open contest for leadership positions within the GOP, will the party disintegrate into two new factions, or rally behind a fresh set of faces?
Where Does the GOP Go From Here?
First, the Speaker of the House John Boehner resigned from his post, effective at the end of the month (or whenever the Republican Party is able to find his replacement). The same bloc of Tea Party candidates organized under the House Freedom Caucus that pushed out Boehner, numbering about 40, also jumped all over heir-apparent Kevin McCarthy, the current Majority Leader in the House. It didn't take long for McCarthy to also bow out of the race for the speakership, leaving a huge void in the leadership structure of the GOP.
McCarthy mainly took flak for casually suggesting in a Fox News interview that the congressional committee investigating the Benghazi tragedy was merely a ploy to hurt Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy and poll numbers. Democrats have made similar accusations about the Benghazi hearings, at which Mrs. Clinton is expected to testify later in October.
It's been almost a century since the House of Representatives couldn't decide upon a new Speaker in a civil manner. The "gentlemanly" voting process for Speaker (wherein all the members of the majority party support a single candidate, even if they don't all agree) is not some hard-and-fast rule; it's only a traditional, agreed-upon formality.
Further, it's not incumbent upon Democrats to stay out of the process. That's simply the way business is typically done in Congress. Prior to the Civil War, contests for Speaker of the House were far more vicious and damaging. These kinds of knock-out, drag-out fights were not good for the representatives' (or the parties') long-term political capital. Thus, this prompted the Democrats and Republics to develop their current system of rubber-stamping the presumptive candidate out of solidarity and political expediency.
One must wonder, would the establishment wing of the GOP be willing to compromise with the Dems and form a bipartisan, centrist coalition in order to create a majority voting bloc?
First Democrat Debate
Speaking of Hillary, the former First Lady, Secretary of State, and senator from New York will look to fend off attacks from Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont who mostly holds positions to the left of the more centrist Clinton.
There is no doubt that tonight’s debate will make for an exciting one. Hillary’s candidacy has suffered after she became embroiled in a email scandal, but tonight may provide her the opportunity to turn things around. She is likely to rely on burgeoning support from minority voters. Further, she is the only candidate with actual foreign policy experience, however, voters may be reticent to find solace in this fact.
Bernie Sanders has been looking to capitalize on his past anti-interventionist adherences. A statement recently released by his campaign reminds voters that he voted against the military occupation of Iraq in 2002 believing it would lead to too many casualties and hinder the war on terror.
Sanders currently lacks support from minority voters, which may hinder the upward-acceleration of his polling numbers.
Rounding out the Democratic field are the following candidates:
Martin O'Malley, former mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland. He's also the only Dem in the field with experience as an executive, i.e. a state governor for eight years. He is seeking reforms to gun control, Wall Street and trade policies. O’Malley’s polling numbers have flickered out around 5 percent.
Jim Webb, the former Marine and Republican-turned-Democrat Senator. Webb brings to the table a wealth of experience pulled serving Secretary of the Navy. He is in support of the Keystone pipeline and has more conservative views towards gun control. Webb also believes that the U.S. should opt out of the Iran deal.
Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Harvard. Lessig promises to resign as president and hand position over to his VP if Congress passes his campaign finance reform platform. Lessig will not take the stage tonight.
Lincoln Chafee, former senator and governor from Rhode Island (also former moderate Republican who switched when Obama got elected). Chaffee was the only Republican senator to vote against the Iraq War in 2002. The amount of supporters for Chaffee remains in the bottom one-percentile.
The debate will premiere tonight at 8:30. CNN and NextVR have also teamed up to provide viewers with 3D virtual reality screenings of the debate.