July 01, 2004

The Coming Republican Civil War

I think Andrew Sullivan is on to something when he says there seems to be signs of a coming schism in the GOP between the neo and theocons and the moderates and libertarians. You see this in the challenges by Bob Faust and Roselyn O'Connell. You also saw it when GOP moderates decided to bolt their party leaders and side with the Dems urging real fiscal restraint.

In my own view, I think mainstream Republicans have had enough of the far right which has over played its hand. I do think that if Bush happens to lose in November, you can see the moderates getting some claws and start chipping away at the power of the far right. I believe the seeds of rebellion are being sown as we speak.

I think Sully puts it best:

"The current tussle in the Congress over the budget is just a precursor to what I think will be outright Republican civil war after this election. If Bush wins, it will cripple his ability to get anything done. If he loses, the recriminations will get vicious. The fiscal conservatives will be fighting the "deficits-don't-matter" crowd. The realists will be out to topple the neocons. The Santorum-Ashcroft axis will continue to wage war on any Republicans not interested in legislating either the Old Testament or the dictates of the Vatican. (The FMA battle now looks more and more like an attempt by Santorum to identify Republican social moderates so he can use primary hardliners to challenge them in the future.) The battle lines are deep and sharp - and the future of American conservatism is at stake. Bush has proven himself unable to unite a party that includes Tom DeLay as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain and Bill Frist. Whether the coming civil war is about who lost the election, or who will exploit the victory, it's going to be nasty and enduring. No single party can be both for individual liberty and for theologically-based social policy; both for fiscal balance and drunken-sailor spending; both for interventionism abroad and against moralism in foreign policy. The incoherence is just too deep, the tensions too strained. And with the war on terror itself a point of contention among conservatives, geo-politics will not be able to keep the coalition in one piece. "

Posted by Dennis at July 1, 2004 12:31 AM

These are interesting and thought provoking points, both Sully's and Dave's comments

but it seems to me that the influence of the "neocons, theocons and (economic) libertarians"

while very significant at the leadership level

is not supported and is way out of proportion to what rank and file Republicans subscribe to (which I guess is sort of what Sully and Dave said).

But this all seems a little too intellectual and a little to rarefied for me, perhaps because I work at the grassroots level,

there are clear, overwhelming majorities that will rally around practical solutions to problems with health care, education, tax policy, energy policy and care of the environment (to name a few) not to mention our mutual defense.

Someone needs to plant a flag

and work to get people to the primaries

and all the pooh bahs will then need to race to catch up with the "sea change" in American politics.

Posted by: dorsano at July 1, 2004 03:24 AM

I think Sully hit the nail on the head. The Reagan coalition that he described in his post on GOP infighting is reaching critical mass and will soon explode. How did Reagan keep this motley crew together? The same way FDR united Southern Theocrats with Northern Socialists to form a Democratic majority that lasted half a century. Reagan gave birth to the current GOP coalition, which was held together by the common goals that its disparate members once shared: freedom from the tyrannical Left, which, in the 1970s, seemed prepared to relegate America to the third-rate, nanny-state, socialist status of much of Western Europe. Now, the Left has itself been relegated to the hallowed halls of the Fourth Estate and Academia, leaving the mechanics of governmental power in the hands of a Republican Party that is about to reach true majority status. If the Republicans wake up on Nov 3rd and realize that they control both houses of Congress by hefty majorities, hold the majority of state houses and legislative seats, and have just reelected a Republican president, the Democrats become irrelevant and civil war begins.

Interestingly, this was the same situation the FDR coalition found themselves in after the Democratic landslide of 1964. The next presidential election, 1968, marked the beginning of the end of the Democratic majority, an event burned into political history due to the unforgettable 1968 convention. 2008 should be an interesting year and I don't think there's a Bush heir-apparent out there that can unite us all. The closest thing to a compromise candidate is probably Mitt Romney, who's against gay marriage (social conservatives), for balancing the budget (deficit hawks), pro-choice (libertarians), and has ties to three different regions of the country (Utah, Michigan, Massachusetts).

Posted by: Dave at July 1, 2004 01:44 AM
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