alien & sedition.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
  Republicans: The War Within

At the OpinionJournal today, Brendan Miniter discusses how the deepening crisis within the GOP has reached Texas, where the state's House Speaker - and Tom Delay's proxy in the mid-term redistricting caper - Tom Craddick only barely managed to survive a coup attempt led by Democrats and moderate Republicans.
Even deep in the heart of Texas, these days the Republican Party is finding itself divided and on the defensive. Mr. Craddick survived the attempted coup after a protracted fight that dragged into the early evening. But last month seven-term Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla wasn't as fortunate. He was unseated by Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in a special election that grew out of a Supreme Court decision amending the Craddick-DeLay redistricting map. And in November Democrat Nick Lampson defeated a Republican write-in candidate for Mr. DeLay's old seat in the Houston suburbs. Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, was re-elected, but only after running the gantlet in a four-way competitive race in which he received a 39% plurality. It's no wonder that for nearly two months liberal politicos have been celebrating the end of conservatism.

Liberal commentator Jacob Weisberg, writing in Slate in November, went a step further. Positing the end of the "conservative era," he wondered "what will replace it?" He's not alone. Commentators on the right are also wondering what the future holds--it's what happens when a party loses its principles and splits along sectarian lines.
The political map is part of the problem. With the GOP nearly extinguished in the Northeast, and the battleground shifting to the West, the contradiction between the Republicans' coddled Christian fundamentalist base and its increasingly alienated libertarian constituency - the latter being critical to electoral success in the interior West - threatens to tear another hole in the party.
[I]f ... religious conservatives are costing the GOP mountain conservatives, then it's hard to see how the Republican Party avoids a pitched battle for its soul. Values voters lay claim to the last electoral victory for the party--President Bush's re-election in 2004--and Christian conservatives have long had a strong hand in judicial politics on the right. Economic conservatives lay claim to the victories of Newt Gingrich and Ronald Reagan.
All of this is developing in two shadows: one growing, the other already long. The first is a Republican presidential primary contest in which all three front runners will be deeply flawed, from the Christian right's perspective, even as each desperately seeks to secure that vital fundamentalist support while not compromising their positions in a general election likely to be determined by voters fed up with the Republicans' long march to the right.

The other shadow, of course, is the war. In what is becoming an increasingly popular metaphor, Miniter reaches back to another Texan president to examine what kind of political damage an open-ended and unpopular war can do.
The last president from Texas who found himself mired in an unpopular war--Lyndon B. Johnson--also presided over a divided party. He left Democrats incapable of capturing the voting public's imagination in national elections, which allowed the GOP to win control of the White House for five of six elections beginning in 1968.
Miniter argues that Bush is still attempting to avoid LBJ's fate - and that "winning the war is now a decisive issue."

Which might offer some hope to Republicans, if only Iraq was a war that could possibly be won.

Update: Looking again at this: "Values voters lay claim to the last electoral victory for the party--President Bush's re-election in 2004". While it's true that the gay marriage initiatives drew a late wave of Christian conservatives to the polls - a "surge," if you will - if the lesson that the Republicans take from the 2004 election is that their "values voters" are the key to victory, then the GOP really is on the road to oblivion. But I think that most non-fundy Republican operatives are smarter than that.

2004 was a national security election, through and through, and despite holding the generally insurmountable advantage of wartime incumbency - against a candidate who was systematically demonized as weak - Bush barely eked out a victory. In a normal year, a general election campaign that focused on pleasing the Christian right would go down only somewhat better than one that centered around the demands of the Workers' World Party.

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Way overblown and over-hyped. Libertarian Republicans just had one of their best years ever. Of course, the liberal media missed the story. Libertarians in the GOP are quite content these days. In fact, the Social Cons seem to be backing off and letting the libertarians drive for once.

Eric, CEO
Well, the OpinionJournal is pretty definitively not the "liberal" media.

At any rate, it seems to me that the GOP has made a couple of deals with the devil: the fundies and the particularly conservative version of the "war on terror" make a lot of very anti-libertarian demands - from mail snooping to Terry Shiavo bills - that are closely identified with the Republicans, and are very very unpopular.

Still, I'd be interested to hear more about why libertarians still feel they have a future in the GOP. Does habeas corpus cease to matter as long as you get your tax cut?
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