The Growing Conservative Divide
by Todd Beeton, Mon Feb 16, 2009 at 11:20:02 AM EST
While conventional wisdom is that the GOP is quite pleased with itself for having stood united against the stimulus package and, remarkably, many in the media consider the GOP warriors winners in the debate, Jason Linkins has a great piece at HuffPo demonstrating a real divide between the triumphalism of conservatives in congress and the exasperation of conservatives looking on from the outside.
Linkins takes David Frum as an example, who railed against GOP members' anti-San Francisco mouse strategy:
The problem with the story is not that it was false. The problem with the story is that it was stupid.
The US economy has plunged into severe recession (94% of Americans describe economic conditions as "bad," according to the Feb 2-4 CBS poll, and 51% say conditions are getting even worse).
President Obama and the Democrats have responded by steering the US radically to the left. [...]
We're facing more regulation of everything from high finance to the ordinary workplace. The Democrats are expanding Medicaid to crowd out private insurance. The federal government wants a huge new role in redirecting private investment in transportation and energy in the name of "green jobs."
And facing all this - we're talking about mice?
Could we possibly act more inadequate to the challenge? More futile? More brain dead?
Frum and I agree on little but I can get on board that last sentence. You see, we're coming together already.
Linkins next quotes Ross Douthat, conservative Atlantic blogger and self-styled Republican Party reformer, who agrees with Frum and bemoans the lack of leadership in the Republican Party:
Whereas today's Republican Party has no leaders at all, if you define leaders as politicians with the credibility and power to chart a new course for the party, as opposed to having it charted for them by the GOP's most vocal constituents and most ideological backbenchers. John McCain was mistrusted by the base, but he at least had run, and won, a national primary campaign, and thus could claim a mandate to lead the party with at least some degree of plausibility. Whereas the GOP's leaders in Washington, your Mitch McConnells and John Boehners, owe their power entirely to backroom politics: Nobody loves them, nobody trusts them, and as a result they're in no position to execute the kind of pivots that the party needs to make. One can reasonably expect them to do better than they've done to date when it comes to articulating an actual alternative to Obamanomics - i.e. more Larry Lindsey, less Jim DeMint - but one can't expect them to do much better. They simply don't have enough room to maneuver.
...the more likely road to revival for the GOP probably starts outside Washington, with politicians who can afford to be experimental without constantly worrying about what Rush Limbaugh would say about them.
Unfortunately for Douthat's little theory, however, it's precisely the Republicans outside of Washington who are the ones supporting the stimulus package because, ya know, they're actually in the states...with the people...and the roads...and the jobs. And they tend to be more moderate, an increasingly rare breed within Washington, but a newly strong force within the party since they are legitimately a part of Obama's governing coalition. All of which point to more faults within the Republican Party, and certainly belie the delusionally triumphant ode to unity Eric Cantor sent out this weekend.