The Party of Factions, Republican or Democrat?
The New York Times ran a dopey headline on Sunday: "A Party of Factions Gathers, Seeking Consensus." This in reference to Republicans going to Tampa for their convention.
Let's set aside that political parties necessarily comprise factions, unless you're the Berkley Communist Party of Ice Cream-making Midgets of Color. But even among that cohort there may be factions.
Let's, instead, get to the implication of the New York Times' article: that the GOP is riven -- or nearly riven -- by dissention among its factions.
There are indeed clashes among GOP factions, but, critically, it's a different sort from what the Democratic Party experiences.
The Democratic Party is the party of factions-as-claimants. Democratic factions are all unified around big government. What they want -- be they gays, feminists, movement blacks and Hispanics, academics, the upscale leftist white inbred, among others -- is ever bigger chunks of the big government pie.
Another way of putting it: the Democratic Party is the party of bands of jackals and vultures, all ripping at taxpayers' caresses -- and one another, if they can't carry off enough meat.
The primary cleavages in the GOP are between the party establishment and insurgent grassroots conservatives and Tea Partiers. The former are trimmers, who earnestly want slower government growth, better-managed government, and nothing to upset their comfy positions in the existing order of things.
Says Dick Armey about the GOP establishment, from the New York Times' article:
There's a tendency by a lot of folks that says, "We have been doing business in the way we have for so many years here, we shouldn't be burdened by the election of so many people who want to make it difficult to continue doing business as usual[.]"
The latter -- grassroots conservatives and Tea Party patriots -- want smaller government...really. They seek a significant decentralization of the national government...really. They desire to transform (to borrow a word from our illustrious soon-to-be-one-term president) government through historic reform, with the Ryan Medicare reforms only as a down payment...really.
There are also differences between the burgeoning libertarian elements in the GOP and social and religious conservatives. Libertarians and foreign policy hawks are also at odds.
But this is the stuff of healthy ferment -- intellectual, philosophical, and policy. The differences among Republican factions aren't the stuff of a star collapsing in on itself. It's the stuff of star-creation. It's where the birth of the new happens.
The GOP isn't experiencing what the Democrats experienced in the late 1960s and 1970s, when insurgences and left-wing extremism ripped FDR's party to pieces. Nothing of the sort is happening in the GOP.
The Republican Party is in the throes of a rebirth. The weight of change lies with grassroots conservatives and Tea Party patriots. Libertarians bring a strong devotion to small government and free markets. Social conservatives and the faithful are bringing renewed vigor to the fight for the unborn, marriage, and traditional families -- and for cleaning out the sewer that popular culture has become.
Make no mistake: the fights among GOP factions will be tough and at times bare-knuckled. Creating a GOP capable of responding the challenges and needs of 21st-century America isn't for the faint of heart. But a party's identity and purposes are forged through contests over convictions, ideas, and direction.
And a party that is contesting convictions and ideas isn't a magnet that repulses but attracts activists and voters. The GOP has entered a dynamic and exciting time in its history.
The GOP will not be dis-unified going into the November elections, regardless of whether that's what the New York Times, the left, and Democrats hope.
Republicans of all stripes are, first and foremost, unified around undoing the terrible botches made by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. All Republicans know that this nation is heading for a disaster of untold portions if the Obama presidency stands and if Democrats retain the Senate.
From Mitt Romney down to your local candidate for dog catcher, Republicans will be singing off the same song sheet this autumn. The lyrics will include: "Get rid of Barack Obama. Turn the economy around. Save the nation."
Those lyrics may not rhyme, but they're going to be music to the ears of a majority of voters.