Thursday, February 21, 2013

GOP Civil War: Does it matter?

Conservatives seem to be having a grand old  time arguing about what to do.  Should we be sidelining Tea Party extremists with Karl Rove?  Or teaching Rush a lesson with S.E. Cupp?

Should we return to the William F. Buckley Jr. policy of supporting the most conservative politician that can get elected? Or should we be doing full-bore conservatism, as Rush always recommends?

Who, in other words, will own the future?

Who knows?  The fact about US politics is that the marginal voter is a lot more liberal that an average Republican candidate, and a lot more conservative than the average Democratic candidate.  So getting elected is always a crap-shoot; you need to get your people to the polls, but you need to avoid turning off the moderates and the partisans in the other party.

Everyone wants the government to spend money on them, but they think that someone else should pay more in taxes.

In the next four years, I suspect that the big political story will be the gradual collapse of the Obama permanent campaign, the ability of the Obama people to define political reality.

In the last decade we have experienced an extraordinary political campaign by the entire liberal universe.  It started with the campaign to demonize President Bush as the "selected, not elected" president, and it extended into the opportunistic campaign against the Iraq War.  Then it morphed into the 2006 mid-term campaign when the Democrats ran a slate of center-right candidates to take back the House of Representatives.  Then, of course, it was the campaign to elect Barack Obama as a post-partisan moderate.  Then there was the push for ObamaCare.  In the last two years it has been a campaign against Republican obstructionism.

During the whole decade the Democrats and the media have managed to achieve an astonishing message discipline as they seamlessly switched from one phase to the next.  How did they do it?  I think they did it because of the utter determination in liberal-land to restore the liberal project.

The problem is that the resumption of the liberal project is going to end in the most almighty mess: debt default, entitlement cuts, inflation, hardship.  The "manufactured consent" (thanks Noam Chomsky) of the last decade is going to collapse.

When that happens it won't matter how the conservatives and the beltway Republicans have been arguing and posturing in the months after the 2012 election.  Politics will become a whole new ballgame, and it will all depend on the mood of the American people.  Will they want to blame insurance  companies for ObamaCare, or the federal government?  Will they blame Obama and Helicopter Ben Bernanke for the inflation or greedy oil companies?  Will they blame the Democrats for the bad economy or obstructionist Republicans?

In the new environment it will all depend on the qualities of the individual candidates running for election and the excellence of their campaigns.  Because there are always people that want to loot the corporations on one side, and people that want to get the government out of the way on the other.  The question at election time is which approach wins the support of the folks, the so-called "low information voters" in the middle.

So I say, let's have it all out between the conservative and Republican factions right now.  Then, when 2014 and 2016 come along, let's fight the elections and win them.

And stop worrying about whether the other guys will ruin the party.

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