Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Great (Non-Existent) Republican Civil War

Ladies and gentlemen, the end is near for the Republican Party. That’s right. The noble elephant has split asunder, cleaved in two. Conservative brother is fighting conservative brother in the streets. Wait a minute, that’s not true. So why do I keep reading about Republican “civil wars”? Oh yeah, media bias.

The media has two modes for the Republicans. When things are going poorly for the Republicans, we are treated to a slew of stories telling us that the Republicans are an extremist bunch (with only the occasional brave dissenter) whose ideology has turned off the public, and that they need to move to the left to regain the public's trust. But when things go right for the Republicans, the media switches over to the other mode: the Republicans are in the middle of a civil war that will tear the party apart.

Right now, we've re-entered civil war mode. Indeed, in the past week, we’ve had stories on the “civil war” in the RNC over Michael Steele, the “civil war” between the Tea Party Republicans and the establishment Republicans, the “civil war” in the Senate between DeMint and the country clubbers, the “civil war” over presidential candidates in 2012, the “civil war” over Palin, the “civil war” over leadership positions, and now the “civil war” over committee chairmanships. The use of the term “civil war” has almost become pathological.

Yet, none of these are civil wars. There is no threat to shatter the party. There are no two equal and opposing forces ready to wipe each other out no matter what the consequences. Instead, you have normal election issues. You’ve got a handful of incumbents who lost their seats. You’ve got newbies who are slightly to the right of existing members, and they want to shift the party back to the foundations the party itself claims. You’ve got committee people scrambling for power, as they always do. And you will have a competitive presidential primary coming up, just like every other primary that doesn’t include an incumbent President.

What’s more, you have a leadership that at least verbally has embraced a shift to the right; they haven’t drawn a line in the sand or threatened to stop the newcomers. To the contrary, they’ve gone out of their way to promote some of these newcomers. You’ve also got a rank and file that are largely unified behind a return to a stronger brand of conservatism -- a more unified rank and file than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime.

This simply does not a civil war make.

A real political civil war looks like the Democrats in 1968, when old-school Democrats were surrounded at their convention by the lunatic fringe and the police had to be called out. A real political civil war was when Reagan took on the establishment in 1980, and the Rockefeller wing of the party actually ran a Republican as an independent just to deprive the conservatives of a victory. There is nothing similar today.

So why does the media keep calling every disagreement among Republicans a civil war? Ideological bias.

The media is composed almost entirely of far-left leftists, and they want the Republicans to fail. Thus, they report on Republican “scandals” as if they are systemic and as if they are the end of the world, while giving Democrats a free pass on identical conduct. They look for the wackiest, tackiest Republicans to provide them with a steady stream of bizarre and outrageous sound bites, which they sell as commonly held beliefs among the party faithful. . . something they never do to Democrats.

And when it comes to any sort of competition for ideas or people within the party, they frame the issue as the beginning of the end for the Republicans. . . an intractable civil war. Why? Because they are hoping this demoralizes the party. They hope the rank and file will distrust the leadership because of the constant barrage of stories about infighting. They hope independents will see the Republicans as a party in turmoil, where nasty extremists keep fighting to purge noble moderates. They hope to muddy the message of the party, by pretending there are two equal sides fighting, when the truth is that the “moderate” side in the “civil war” is only a handful of corrupt insiders or people who are well outside the mainstream of Republican thinking. And they hope it's true.

Moreover, to the extent there has been a civil war within either party over the past decade, it was within the Democrats, as the “progressive” left all but wiped out the center-left that Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council put into place. But somehow this never rates the descriptor “civil war” among a sympathetic media. Instead, you hear about the occasional “insurgent” within Democratic ranks. . . a term used again today to describe the few Democrats trying to unseat Pelosi. The difference between a civil war and an insurgent is the difference between the image of a party split in two and set against itself, versus a few sneaks who are trying to overthrow a settled regime.

So if you see more talk about another Republican “civil war,” don’t believe it. This is simply leftist bias and a little wishful thinking. The party is undergoing a very calm and widely approved of shift to the right. And the replacement of a few establishment types who don’t fit that new approach does not constitute a civil war.


T_Rav said...

If anything, the media should be talking about a Democratic civil war, with Pelosi fighting her underlings over control of the House Dems, a possible run against Obama by Hillary, and so on.

That said, though, I don't know if I would go with you in describing what's going on in the GOP as "calm" or "normal." Widely approved of, sure, but it's also facing a lot of opposition from the RINOs and those who are just plain too craven to give up power, as McConnell, Inhofe, Murkowski, etc. have demonstrated. Doesn't mean there's a civil war going on, but it is something unusual.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, The real civil wars, the nasty ones, have been on the Democratic side since the 1960s, but the media never reports that because that would be bad for the Democrats. It's better to present the Democrats as a big-tent party that is simultaneously unified. . . with the exception of the occasional good for nothing insurgent who is trying to undo all the happiness.

Calm and normal are actually probably correct. There has always been a struggle between the RINOs and the conservatives. In the 1960s, this resulted in an abandonment of Goldwater by the establishment. In the 1970s, it resulted in such an open war with Reagan that the establishment tried to throw the election by backing Anderson.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990, the country clubbers battled religious conservatives as they moved into the party. The religious conservatives moved in at the ground level (like the Tea Party people today), they ran against incumbents, and they fought over the platform and direction of the party. The RINOs opposed all of this, loudly. Not only did they provide nasty quotes to the media, but they very publicly refused to endorse conservatives and they often ran as independents or endorsed the Democrat whenever the RINOs lost in the primaries.

That's no different than what is going on now, except that the establishment is much more conservative today than it used to be, and is much more welcoming of the Tea Party people. The relationship isn't perfect, but the opposition of an increasingly small number of RINOs and some self-interested aparratniks does not make this period anymore disagreeable than any other point in party history -- in fact, I would argue that the current changes are being made much more smoothly and with greater acceptance than ever.

Joel Farnham said...

Ah, 'tis a beautiful thing!!

I read at the American Thinker an article which states that the Conservatives have given the rest of the GOP an interesting notice.

It reads as if it has come from the Tea Partiers alone. It might as well be. This election is the beginning of something that is so big it defies description.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think you're right.

What surprises me a little bit is how easily the transition seems to be going. I recall in the 1980s when conservatives tried to move the party to the right, there was a lot of ugliness. The clubbers didn't like the idea of being ideological and fighting with their Democratic friends. They wanted to be Democrats only not spend as much or tax as much.

And they didn't take the invasion of the conservatives sitting down. Indeed, they tried to undermine everything including supporting Democrats just so the conservatives would lose elections.

But this time, the party seems to be scrambling to adopt the Tea Party issues with little opposition. There have been a few moments where there was tension, but by and large everyone in the party seems to accept this as inevitable. Even the usual suspects (Snowe, Collins, Graham, McCain) are making agreeable noises. And there certainly hasn't been anything approaching a civil war.

Like you, I think this is the beginning of something very good for the party and for the country.

(Thanks for the link.)

Joel Farnham said...


This transition does surprise me as well. It is such a startling complexion change that I feel the Republicans this time around will prosper far and wide. I am beginning to think that when California asks for a new bailout, they won't get it. Neither will New York.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I wouldn't hold my breath about California (though New York seems to still have some rationality to it), but I agree completely. It seems like the Republicans and the public are finally of one mind. And if that's true, and the Republicans follow through, then this could turn out to be something truly great for our country!

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, here's a link to an interesting article at Politico: Click Me, which explains why the Democrats will keep Pelosi as leader. It's basically the same reasons we gave a few weeks back.

I particularly like the intro:

"To the outside world, what House Democrats are poised to do later this morning seems to defy logic: Why would politicians who supposedly care above all about public opinion and their own hides stick with an unpopular leader who just carried them through one of the worst election drubbings in decades?


It's a vivid illustration of how congressional leadership elections are decided by factors often barely visible to the naked eye."

Ed said...

I am sick of hearing about Republican civil wars. That's all the MSM talks about when they cover Republicans. If they had any integrity, they would talk about the bad blood in the Democrat Party.

Ponderosa said...

At one point RINOs were also known as "Rockefeller Republicans" and you're correct - they've always been with us. It's all about self and career...looks great on a resume! They would be just as happy to run as a Dems, happier maybe.

O'Donnell’s win in the primary is a powerful tool. If a weak candidate can beat Castle – all are worried about 2012. If they believe they can lose - it really doesn't matter if it is true or not. Dems in red states will be hammered as well. The Tea Party can herd both RINOs and DINOs.

Which means they have de facto control of the Senate but BO can’t easily fight or campaign against the Senate, and thankfully McConnell isn’t Pro Tempore.

As for the civil war business - the MSM is just mad. They can’t create a “maverick” for the nomination and then turn on him in the general.

Topic suggestion: the New START treaty.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I get sick of it as well... hence the article.

AndrewPrice said...

Ponderosa, I agree. The Tea Party's power lies in the fear that it puts into politicians that they need to shape up or be replaced. And you're right about O'Donnell. If she could knock off a guy as popular as Castle in Delaware, then no one is safe. And maybe that's why the Republicans seem to be listening so closely?

You're also right about the Senate, not winning it will turn out to be a very good thing come 2012. If we held the majority, the expectations would have been huge -- but the Senate rules would have kept the Republicans from meeting those expectations. I talked about that here.

What do you want to talk about regarding the nonSTARTer Treaty?

Notawonk said...

with the dems viciously pulling each others hair and screaming hysterically at each other like pre-teen justin bieber fans since the election, it's laughable that the msm reports of a republican civil war. but they are smart enough to know the minute they report on the dem meltdown, as based on fact, then their gig is o-v-e-r. can't be biting the hand that slips you the script.

Dane said...

The media lies.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, Very true. The only thing keeping the party from fully turning on the Democrats is that the MSM covers up for them -- hiding their whackos, filtering and refining their message, keeping quiet about the bad, and attacking the Republicans.

It's ridiculous that they are pushing this "civil war" theme when there is no evidence of it right now. As I say above, this has been one of the smoothest transitions with the least amount of anguish and fighting that I can remember.

AndrewPrice said...

Dane, Twain should have said, "there are lies, damn lies... and the media."

Ponderosa said...

Basically I expect this administration to bow to the Russians – as a gesture it is annoying & stupid but in a treaty it is dangerous. Perhaps since the chances of it being ratified are small the subject doesn't need to be addressed.

Even still, I remember reading about some very bizarre things about the treaty. I may be wrong but aren’t some sections secret and unavailable even to the Senate? Isn’t much of the treaty unilateral – many of the restrictions only apply to the US? The treaty seems like a huge threat to our national security.

AndrewPrice said...

Ponderosa, Apparently, main of the details are classified and will not be released to the public, but the Senators can see those detail in something called "the secure reading room."

In terms of the treaty, a reduction in the number of nuclear missiles really isn't a big deal. Some people make it out to be a problem, but the firepower left over is more than enough.

The real threat will come if they interpret this treaty as limiting modernization of the weapons or preventing missile defense. Most people say it does not prevent either, though some Republicans are concerned. The Republicans are trying to get promises on modernization out of Obama before agreeing, and Jim DeMint keep trying to attach an amendment that makes it clear that the treaty does not affect missile defense.

My understanding of today's events is that the treaty will not be voted on during the lame duck session and thus will face further Republican pressure in January.

Ed said...

@Patti, Great line -- can't be biting the hand that feeds you the script. :D

rlaWTX said...

in my Social Psych class this week, we discussed Social Influence - basically there is a majority view and a minority view and they each work on the populace to influence them (conformity, obedience). Since I have this abiding political interest (if only I could make $ in political psych!), here is the thought question that I turned in to the prof (French-Canadian/Portugese transplant who is consistently confused by West TX):
When polled, the majority of Americans show to be “center-right” in their political positions. The majority of media, including, movies, TV shows, newspapers, and news programs, and those involved in media either poll or exhibit “left” positions. Who in this model is the “majority” and who is the “minority”? Most of the perspectives in the book focused on who held the power as the majority. But, while the voters have the power of the election, media has the power of saturation and the soapbox. Is it because we essentially have two “majorities” that we have so much political wrangling? Each “majority” can show their own in & out groups, and I think that the media “majority” focuses on the ‘normative social influence’ (watch as we show those who agree as good and those who disagree as bad – don’t you want to agree and be good?) while the political grassroots “majority” tends to use the ‘informational social influence’ (you know you think that we’re correct and you want to be correct too, don’t you?).

Her comment: "I wouldn't realize this from watching TV." !?!?!?!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Excellent question. My first instinct is to say that the break down of majority and minority really isn't relevant to how society works. I would say instead that society should be broken down into leaders and followers.

The leaders are the people who make all the decisions that move society. These could be political types, media types, a corporate CEO, an influential author, an inventor, the commissioner of a sports league, or even just someone who forms a book club -- anyone who influences the followers. These are the people who tell society what to think and do, and the rest of society dutifully complies (even as many of them think they are making up their minds independently).

(As an aside, not all people in leadership positions fall into this category. A good example might be a CEO who is promoted by his friends who are leaders, but then never develops the power to influence anyone around them.)

In my observations, about 20% of the population falls into this leadership group, with the followers being the other 80%.... I can actually provide a nearly endless stream of examples of the 80/20 rule in all fields affecting human behavior. In advertising, for example, they've found that if you can swing the 20%, they will bring the 80% with them.

I would then further complicate this picture by saying that the leadership group is broken in half between positive leaders and malicious leaders. In other words, half the leadership group really is working toward the good, and half spends its time throwing a monkey wrench into things. Although, let me stress that the malicious group are not necessarily consciously malicious, they just tend to make decisions that hurt people or destroy projects.

And it's the fight between the two 10% groups that decides where society goes next.

That's my take on it. :-)

Unknown said...

Andrew: I think you're right on target with the difference between the internal Republican battles and the internal Democratic battles. Politics ain't beabag, but the Democrats seem to loading up with IED's.

I will say, though, that in my years as a Democrat activist, I had seen two real internal donnybrooks. The first was the Democratic nomination of Lyndon Johnson, and the second was the Republican nomination of Barry Goldwater in the same year. The Republican convention took place in San Francisco, and there were more than a few fistfights and, shall we say, harsh word.

For the Democrats, it was the civil rights/antiwar contingent versus the traditional labor/poverty tax-and-spend mainstream. For the Republicans, it was the newly-emerging conservative coalition versus the Rockefeller/Nixon old guard.

Both parties seemed to be tearing themselves apart, and both obviously survived. Today's internal battles seem almost tame by comparison. But I have to admit, it was great fun back then.

Joel Farnham said...


Well, the Democrats did it. They re-elected Pelosi as Minority Leader of the House. It was a foregone conclusion, but it still is enlightening that the Dems don't get it. Hmmm.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Agreed. To look at the comparison, just look at the Democrats in 1968, where you had protests in the streets against the Democratic convention and attempts to tear down the establishment candidates.

And then look at the Republican war between the clubbers and the conservatives that started under Goldwater and came to a head in Reagan's nomination -- with the clubbers actually endorsing Democrats and even running RINOs against the conservatives in the main elections just to deprive the conservatives of a victory.

Those were nasty times and there just isn't anything like that right now.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Nothing says "we aren't listening and we don't care" than re-electing the entire Democratic leadership team. And even worse, running around saying, "people were just upset about the economy."

Well, good for us.

Notawonk said...

ed: thanks!

Tennessee Jed said...

To me, the only question has ever been "do they actually believe what they write or do they strictly and consciously spin in the hopes that if they say it, it will become accepted as fact?" My guess is, probably a little of both.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I would say a little of both as well. It's like the people who are upset at an ex-spouse or friend and they find reasons to be upset about everything and they spin everything the other person does into the worst possible light. I think it's the same thing here. Part of it is because they do believe it, part of it is because they wish it to be true.

rlaWTX said...

Andrew - thanks for that perspective. I think there is probably more to the leader/follower idea - especially in our highly portable information age. But the social psych definitions of majority/ minority also play into oppression vs innovation and conformity vs independent thought. While the text doesn't SAY that the minority (defines as less power, fewer #) is better, it does imply that the majority is oppressive by nature. And while there are valid points to needing a disenting voice to drive exploration, social psych implies regularly that the majority (dominant/ oppressive/ white) needs to be schooled or overturned.

I think all of this links to the media portrayal of anything conservative. I am told regularly that mysogynistic paternalism is the "majority" view and women, people of color, and other oppressed groups should fight this majority. [Balderdash!]

StanH said...

The civil-war meme is complete hogwash on either side. MSM sensationalism. However, I believe the lines have been drawn rather nicely, and for a change heading into the 2012 election, the voters will have to distinct ideologies to choose from, conservatism or socialism. If we find a strong candidate who will take the fight into to the heart of Barry and his socialist, we could wind up with super majorities in the house, and senate (60votes, this is a long shot, but 23 democrat senators are up for reelection in ‘12) …with the Whitehouse, more governors, and statehouses. Barry may have given the conservative movement the kick in the butt needed to re-found this country.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, You're welcome.

I have real problems with oppression theories. I've found that they are normally based on a misreading of facts and faulty extrapolations. Plus, they are generally theories designed to create blame and excuse personal failure rather than explain anything truly societal.

There are moments where a majority imposes its will on the minority and truly oppresses them. Nazi Germany comes to mind. But outside of these rare moments, most people are pretty much left alone by society to live their lives. Society is not a monolith like these theories like to pretend, it is instead a loose summation of trillions of individual decisions.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, I agree, 2012 could be a really bad year for the Democrats if they don't endear themselves to the American public again. I'm not sure they can do that, especially since they seem to have gotten the wrong message from the election.

Post a Comment