The Republican Circular Firing Squad
I’m very pleased to be returning to Technorati Politics to write DC Water Cooler, a weekly look at what the politicians and pundits are talking about. So let’s get to it.
Since Tuesday, all of the oxygen in Washington has been consumed by a single issue, whether the civil war now taking place in the Republican Party will make it stronger or lead to a decade of losses.
First the history. The Republican Party has traditionally enjoyed smaller membership than the Democratic Party going back decades. However during that time, they’ve been able to win a fair number of legislative victories – including most presidencies. They do this by mobilizing the three parts of each Republican victory – affluent folks, some independents, and what I’ve uncharitably called “the stupid wing.” During the Nixon era, this last group was called “right-wing reactionaries.” During the Reagan era, they were known as “social conservatives.”
Today, they are members of the “tea party,” a mythical entity created and funded by party insiders like former Congressman Dick Armey. In his Freedomworks bio, Congressman Armey takes credit for writing the Republican “Contract with America.” (Newt Gingrich also takes credit for the document, but it was actually written by a guy named Larry Hunter who cribbed liberally from a Reagan speech.) Dick Armey is as “insider” as they come.
Traditionally, the Republican Party appeals to competitive people and the Democrats attract people who favor cooperation. Republicans believe the victor deserves the spoils. Part of the formula has been to convince the lower middle class that their station is due to the powerful political influence of the poor and lazy. Trust me; don’t try to follow the logic.
Why would party apparatchiks create this tea party beast? It was an act of desperation; they needed the stupid wing to have any chance of winning. And it was slipping away. During the Bush era, a lot of social issues that tied voters to the Republican Party lost their power. One by one, churches – even evangelical ones – began to see their role as less about politics and more about bible study. Over time, gay people became more visible, living together became more common than marriage, and abortion both survived and declined. In other words, the sky didn’t fall.
The final nail was the bail out of banking by the Bush Administration. In the conservative dogma, no one (else) deserves a bail out. So today, the affluent wing and the stupid wing are engaged in epic class warfare. Right-wing reactionaries nee social conservatives nee tea party Republicans want to stage a bloody coup. Candidates like Kentucky’s Rand Paul and just-elected Christine O’Donnell in Delaware ran campaigns demonizing the party they seek to represent.Continued on the next page