Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The real battle within the Republican Party

If you follow political theater, you've probably heard about the big battle within the Republican Party between the "old guard" and the Tea Party, or the moderates and the extremes. The actual battle within the party is more complex and more intersting. It's between the Conservatives, which includes the religious right, the Tea Party, The Progressives (who prefer to be called moderates) and the Libertarians.

The Progressives want to progress toward a more and more government centered society. Specifically, a Federal Government centered society. Conservatives would say they favor traditional family values, a strong military, and fiscal responsiblity. The religious right became a big player in the 80's when they came out for Ronald Reagan. They are steadfastly pro-life, anti-gay and promote what they deem to be Judeo-Christian values. The Tea Party came about in 2008 and 2009 in response to the bail outs. Their issues are smaller, limited government, adherence to the Constitution and smaller balanced budgets. Then you have the Libertarians who recognize that government is needed to referee interactions and trade between individuals and to protect the nation from foreign enemies, but would like to see as little government possible at the lowest possible cost.

Progressive Republicans differ from Progressive Democrats in that they realize lower taxes don't mean lower revenues. They wont come out and say out loud that they want big government, but while you may see taxes go down under Progressive Republican leadership, you will not see government get smaller. Conservatives can work with Progressive Republicans so long as a good portion of the growth of government comes in the form of military spending. The religious right can go along with all of that as long as the party remains pro-life and anti-gay and supports Judeo Christian values. The Tea Party was at first welcomed into the party tent because, frankly, they needed the votes. The smaller government thing seemed to match up okay with lower taxes, however, it turns out when the Tea Party said smaller government, they meant smaller government. This is not sitting well with some of the other factions within the party. They also have not officially adopted the more socially conservative stances on issues like abortion and gay marriage. They've pretty much stuck to the Constitution and fiscal issues.  The Libertarian wing can work well with the Tea Party, but also has a tough time with the Conservatives and the Progressives when it comes to the size and scope of government. Libertarians are flat out in 180 degree opposition with Conservatives on social issues. They believe individuals may disagree with each other, but it's just none of the government's business.

So you have at least four factions currently duking it out within the Party. Something has to give. You can't have a party that marries Libertarians with Progressives, big government with small government, individual freedom with adherence to social dogma. I wont have the audacity to declare (publicly) who is right or predict who will win this war, but until a coalition of compatible forces gets the upper hand, it's not likely Republicans will do well, even if they manage to gain power as a party. Their agenda will remain a confusing mish-mash of conflicting statements, positions and contradictory actions and strategies. That's not sustainable for a major national political infrastructure, so eventually somebody's going to win. In the meantime, it will certainly be fun to watch.