What does it say that the modern GOP is so divided between the establishment wing, the Tea Party wing, and the ego-minded "lemme get my name out there for 2016" wing that they're going to give three boring reprisal spiels to follow up Obama's boring checklist for 2014?
...That’s right: It’s almost time for the annual State of the Union address and its rapidly multiplying responses...following the president’s address, Americans will also (if they choose to) hear from three separate elected Republicans. Because if there’s anything Americans love more than lengthy speeches from politicians, it’s three successive lengthy speeches from politicians...
There's the response from the establishment wing by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers (highest ranking female Republican in the House), then the response from the Tea Party faction by Senator Mike Lee, and also a response via personal YouTube channel by Senator (and 2016 campaigner) Rand Paul.
...When Michele Bachmann delivered her “Tea Party” response to the State of the Union in 2011, it seemed unlikely to become a tradition. But the next year, presidential candidate and pizza magnate Herman Cain delivered his own Tea Party response. Then came Paul, who apparently enjoyed it so much that he decided to deliver his own totally unaffiliated response speech Tuesday, to be posted on YouTube and sent out directly to his followers and fans via his email list...
...Rand Paul’s response won’t be on the networks, because Rand Paul’s audience isn’t everyone, and his intention isn’t necessarily to persuade the median voter. He will sit for cable news interviews after the speech, and hit up the Sunday show circuit a few days later, because he’s still campaigning for 2016 and needs as much free media as possible, but a YouTube response sent directly to people who already support Paul is mainly about energizing and expanding his list.
And that’s sort of the problem the Republican Party faces right now: For Paul, there’s not really any reason not to distract from the “official” party response with a nakedly self-serving bit of early campaigning. There’s nothing stopping whomever wants to declare themselves “the Tea Party” from delivering a response too, because part of identifying with the Tea Party is rejecting the “Washington” leadership of the GOP... but the responses are multiplying for the same reason phony talking filibusters suddenly caught on among Senate Republicans last year: because the GOP is effectively leaderless and acting like a rebel insurgent is the only way to win over grass-roots conservative voters...
The leaderless issue stems from how Speaker Boehner - technically the highest ranking Republican in government - seems unable to control the various conservative factions within his own party, something previous Speakers were supposed to do with a level of finesse and back-room bullying. (Part of this "lawlessness" within the House has been the blocking of pork-barrel spending and committee patronage: Speakers no longer have a carrot to help keep party factions in line) But there are other reasons why the GOP is leaderless: The most obvious is that there are too many splits within the furthest wing of the political spectrum: there's too many Far Right groups struggling for control without any moderate faction to balance them (or force them to unite against intra-party rivals).
The current schisms seem to be between the ones most wanting to prove themselves the heirs to Reagan (the Establishment), the ones most wanting to prove themselves the heirs to Reagan and Ayn Rand (the Libertarian), and the ones most wanting to prove themselves the heirs to
Despite the similarities these factions share with each other - a hatred of hippie libruls and hating on Obama for simply existing - they're all jockeying for dominance within the GOP itself because there are still slight differences. The Establishment types are for basic deregs and no tax hikes, talking the game but amenable (without admitting to it) to making deals on issues like immigration. The Libertarians are fully small government (total deregulation) to the point of hating government, but not too keen on social issues like the drug war or abortion. The Tea Partiers say they're all for fighting taxes, but they've really organized over social (anti-immigration, anti-Obamacare) and religious (abortion) issues and protecting their own interests (Medicare and Social Security, but only for themselves).
Adding to the craziness is the need to grandstand - much like Paul doing his own counter-speech to the counter-speeches already lined up - in order for each official to claim the banner of "flag-carrier" for whichever movement they seek to front. It's a kind of Catch-22: the Republicans appear leaderless, so individual Republicans present themselves as the leader except for the fact there's 10 to 50 other Republicans doing the same thing, forcing them to fight each other and perpetuating the view that the Republicans are leaderless...
So you've got them - the individual grandstanders, the three major wingnut factions - pulling the party apart. Primarily because the other option - forming their own political party - is too much work and not guaranteed to succeed. Our electoral system is geared to two parties: third parties do not last long, as history bore out. Owning the Republican Party outright is the smart move. And the ones who do own the Republican Party - the deep pocket uber-billionaires like the Koch Brothers - honestly don't care which faction is at the controls as long as their pet projects - tax cuts and deregulation - stay safe.
The other problem with the GOP being leaderless is that the real leaders - the aforementioned deep pocket billionaires, the media elite types like Rush Limbaugh and Fox Not-News manager Roger Ailes - are not in positions of accountability within the party itself. None of them hold offices either within the party nor elected positions in a federal or state government. They are talking heads standing on the sidelines, caustic critics throwing bombs at foe and friend alike, refusing to answer to anyone and forcing the actual elected officials to kow-tow to them. It'd be up to them other normal circumstances to broker deals in the back rooms to get one faction favored over another... but favoring one to the exclusion of the others is bound to piss those factions off to commit acts of sabotage (say, refusing any deals to resolve a government shutdown). And the factions are relatively weak because none of them - Libertarian, Tea Partier, even the Establishment faction - appeal outside of their Far Right base. None of them have members that appeal to the populism of a Reagan or even Bush the Lesser (none of the potential leaders are Passive-Positive personalities).
As long as there's been opposition replies to a State of the Union (since 1966), there's never been a divided series of replies like this. Letting the Tea Party faction in 2011 do their own didn't help the Republicans, and now they're up to three separate replies with no guarantee any of them will stay "on message" to help with the 2014 mid-terms. Who's to say by 2016 the Republicans are going to have twenty, most of them by desperate primary-running Presidential candidates, half of them spewing craziness that wins over primary voters but scares off the moderate, mainstream voters that are needed to win general elections?