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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Coming Political Civil War in the Republican Party

Well, if you love politics, the political theater now is of endless fascination. I recently wrote about the Democratic party over interrogation investigations. The president is about to pass one hundred days in office, and now the move of Arlen Specter into the Democratic party has almost guaranteed a political civil war inside the Republican party. This political civil war will almost certainly be sensationalized and built up by the media because the media knows full well that a visible political civil war will hurt the party in general. So, you are likely to hear phrases like a "battle for the soul of the Republican party" over and over in the media for days, weeks, and months to come.

Here is just a snippet of what is to come. First, here is what you will hear from the moderate wing.

“You haven't certainly heard warm encouraging words about how [the GOP] views moderates,” said Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, one of the few remaining moderate Republicans in the Senate. Snowe said the party's message has been, “Either you're with us or you’re against us.”

Here is what the conservative wing is likely to say.

I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.”

So, basically, the faultlines are set. They are set between those that believe in a big tent, and those that believe the Republican party must hold to conservative principles. Another way to look at it is a fight between the elites like David Frum and the base like those attending the tea parties.

Now, let's dispense with some things that are obvious. The fault lines are pretty obvious. You either believe that you want the party to be inclusive or you believe the party must stand for conservative principles. It's that simple and no matter how long this goes it won't change. Second, in this political civil war, the moderates will lose. Look at it this way. Specter went against the base and voted for the stimulus. This left an opening for a traditional like Toomey to run against him. Specter knew that he had no chance to win in the primaries as a result and switched parties. He's a microcosm of the war and he lost. The party is conservative and that's what the voting base wants. Second, like any political civil war, there are ultimately no winners. An airing of dirty laundry in which party leaders are battling each other is ultimately not good for the party as a whole.

Now, here is the good news. This might wind up being a good thing. After such a thumping, this is the sort of thing that is natural and maybe necessary. Maybe, there needs to be a battle for the soul of a party. Furthermore, this is an opportunity for folks like Jim Demint to become new leaders. It allows for leadership to emerge and so the party won't necessarily be viewed as the party of Rush Limbaugh.

Here's the bad news. This is likely to get ugly, really ugly. The sort of back and forth I quoted is only the beginning, and you can bet each and every Republican will be asked to weigh in, and often, their statements may not be pleasant to the other side. You can bet all sorts of bitter statements and accusations will come in the next days, weeks and months. Today was an emotional day but there was a lot of ugliness already. Now, we can hope that things will calm down, but it's likely they will only ramp up.

Furthermore, it's very possible that in airing out this war the party may again perpetuate the image that they are divisive and full of zealots. The image that the party is full of people that have horns may again be presented. If that's the case, a lot of moderates and independents will be lost.

Now, here are the facts. The


Anonymous said...

It's quite funny that you write an article trying to highlight divisions within the Democrat party while not mentioning the Republican problems and the very next day this s### hits the fan.

That is called karma.

mike volpe said...

I think it's funny that the same person, anonymously, complains that two days ago that I wasn't highlighting differences in the Republican party, and then, when I do, still finds a way to turn that into a criticism of me.

I think that's what's funny.

Anonymous said...

Well it is a criticism of you because you were NOT planning on highlighting until the s### hit the fan,

Thus forcing your hand.

You have me IP address whoopdee doo.

mike volpe said...

I wasn't planning on talking about it until it happened. Rather than giving me credit for what you demanded I talk about two days ago, you still find a way to criticize me.

Anonymous said...

Stop it.

This is a "boondoogle".

Anonymous said...



The only way to win is with MORE VOTES THAN THE OTHER GUY.