An open political rift between old school pragmatic Republicans and ideologically committed libertarians aligned with the tea party faction is threatening to engulf the GOP.
"We are looking at ways to counter the rise of an ideological brand of conservatism that, for lack of a better word, is more anti-establishment than it has been in the past," David French, the top lobbyist at the National Retail Federation told The New York Times.
"We have come to the conclusion that sitting on the sidelines is not good enough."
The moderate wing with ties to the corporate world holds positions on immigration reform and fiscal policy that is mostly opposed by the tea party faction. The moderates also disagree over the tactical wisdom of pushing the government shutdown. Past agreement on deregulation, Obamacare, and lower taxes appears no longer enough to hold the two sides together, the Times reported.
Old School Republicans say business interests — and the jobs they represent — are just not a top tea party priority.
"I'm a Republican by definition and by registration, but the party seems to have split into two factions," said Joe Echevarria, an accounting executive.
If that is the case, Texas Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a tea party caucus member implies, then so be it. Neugebauer, named by National Journal as the most conservative member of the House in 2011
, said "We have got to quit worrying about the next election and start worrying about the country," according to the Times.
The Republican business community had been instrumental in empowering the tea party in the first place by financing redistricting efforts around the country. This created safe seats for the most conservative House members, the Times reported. Now, these very incumbents will be less at risk to primary challenges.
Meanwhile, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus is struggling to keep the party united. An email to supporters in which he said "In a fight between Harry Reid and Ted Cruz, I will stand with Ted Cruz any day," has angered those on the party's left, who claim it makes it look like Priebus is taking sides.
Ralph Hallow, chief political writer of The Washington Times
sums up the state of play: "The struggle between pragmatism and core values, policy and politics and old blood versus new blood shows no sign of relenting."
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