Republicans versus Republicans: The Next Battle?

Posted on January 29, 2014 by


Yesterday President Obama gave the annual State of the Union address to Congress.  We now know something of his agenda for the coming year. My colleague Dr. Smith has already discussed the president’s probable new way of governing, the executive order.  President Obama did indeed strongly imply he would “go around” Congress.  I would also urge listening to the responses to the speech given by the Republicans, Tea Party and others.  That is more than half the fun and interest.  And if you didn’t listen live, thanks to modern technology, you can listen or watch today.

But let’s deviate here from the current fare and look at something that didn’t come up tonight.  That is the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 presidential election.  Lately a few journalists and even politicians themselves have raised the specter of a Republican intramural fight between the “establishment” bloc and the “Tea Party” or more right-leaning members.  Some testy words flew a few weeks ago from Majority Leader John Boehner, who lashed out at those he perceived to his political right and thus too extreme, even unelectable.  The National Chamber of Commerce reportedly has committed to spend up to $50 million to defeat Tea Party types around the nation.  Of course, we heard sweetness and light for the most part among Republicans last night, but what about the coming months?

As conservatives (or some similar ideological view), what do we make of this?  Well, first, it is not the first time we have seen division in a party and it won’t be the last.  But second, it remains to be seen whether party establishment types will follow through with their implied and real threats.  Let’s assume they will.  What then?  The Democrats will see blood and attempt to divide and conquer, as they logically should.  They could succeed, but only if the Republican split causes worse damage than President Obama and his congress have caused already.  Voters might vote for any republican who makes it through the primaries.  Or, they may vote their consciences and punish the erring candidates who don’t agree with them.  I am not a prophet and can’t say.

Regardless of the outcome, I feel compelled to address the “establishment” Republicans.  Let me say first that in some respects they are right.  In some (many?) cases of policy, the choice is not between a right and wrong option, but between a better or more prudent choice and a principled but infeasible choice.  When this situation occurs, the establishment seems to have the better case.  You can’t always have all you want at one time.  Incrementalism (the characteristic of the successful Fabian Socialist strategy in Great Britain) sometimes is the best strategy.

But sometimes, when the proposals and policies of the Left are so bad they become virtually unethical, establishment types are wrong for “going along to get along.”  Unfortunately, all too often it seems, establishment Republicans are complicit in the Democratic mischief.  In some cases, it is crony capitalism, a topic often raised on the blog—and rightly so.  Our representatives are not supposed to be favoring one group over another, and especially not by giving them money (in contracts or other “goodies”) that comes from taxpayers, in return for help in the next election campaign.  If that sounds like a harsh indictment, it is meant to be.  Besides that, some see the Republican establishment caving on every major issue, going with the Democrats out of fear of criticism (which seems always to come anyway). 

If I may be so bold, the day may come, sooner than later, when establishment Republicans begin to see the bad fruit of their actions and inactions.  To avoid that unhappy result, instead of railing at their party colleagues they ought to be meeting with them, attempting to reach a consensus beneficial to those whom they serve—citizens.