By Manifesto Joe
There's been much ado in the MSM lately about change in the Republican Party. Last month, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, became the first major Republican politician to come out in favor of gay marriage, and said his son is gay. On immigration overhauls, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has endorsed a path to citizenship for legal immigrants, and his son, the very Latino-looking George P. Bush, is launching a statewide political career in Texas and appears to be making some inroads with Hispanic voters in this state. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, touted as another GOP rising star, has specific ideas for immigration overhauls that sound strikingly like what the Obama administration proposes.
These developments are anathema to the GOP's hard-core Tea Party types, who generally projectile-vomit at the mention of gay marriage and are often hard-line opponents of even legal immigration. Their reaction to these changes has primarily been bilious disgust.
This has some unsympathetic observers speculating that the Republican Party is about to break into two factions: (1) the economic royalists it has always represented, but those whose "social" views are moderate, and (2) the die-hard right wing.
Don't hold your breath. The Republicans have fought all these battles before. Phyllis Schlafly's 1964 screed A Choice Not an Echo illustrates how old this battle is. In those days, it was mainly being fought over economic issues (Barry Goldwater referred to the Eisenhower administration as "the dimestore New Deal") and general sanity about avoiding nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Gay marriage and immigration have merely taken the place of those Cold War and New Deal issues.
The Kool-Aid that both factions have drunk, and with gusto, is supply-side economics. That's different from the GOP infighting that was going on 50 years ago. They are very, very united on that crucial point, and that's the glue that will hold them together no matter what.
Dwight Eisenhower, a conservative in the more pragmatic sense of the word, realized the value of New Deal economic reforms such as Social Security and unemployment insurance. He at least privately regarded these changes as more or less permanent. Now, even the alleged "reform" faction of the Republican Party seems united on gutting Social Security and perhaps even considers benefits for the jobless to be wasteful welfare that just makes the unemployed into paunchy bums.
The Democrats have even more rifts under their tent than the Republicans have, especially now with a quasi-pragmatic centrist like Barack Obama as president. This faction, the pragmatic center, has pretty much controlled the Democratic Party since the McGovern debacle of 1972, but many on the far left remain idealists. Despite the failures of the past, they sincerely believe that "real Democrats," i.e. hard-core lefties, are what the party needs.
I'd be among the first to concede that Obama has been all-too-accommodating. He still doesn't seem to realize that the Republican concept of bipartisanship is to do everything entirely and absolutely THEIR way. But neither do the Democrats need their own version of Tea Party extremists.
The Democrats need to stay as united as possible, because they can't expect any less from the Republicans. The GOP is just doing what its rank-and-file thinks it needs to do to be electable, in reaction to losing the last two presidential races rather badly. They did the same thing starting with Alf Landon in 1936, when the moderate Republican governor of Kansas didn't flatly oppose some parts of the New Deal, he just said it was being poorly administered.
Landon lost badly, but the Republicans kept inching toward the perceived political center, until they finally came up with a winner with Eisenhower in 1952. They'll do that again, this time with gay marriage, immigration and similar "social" issues. The thing that will hold them together this time is that they all remain social Darwinists. They all agree that the poor should be punished for being that way.
Don't expect the GOP to deviate from the formula of the past. When they experience national defeats (the 1930s and '40s, and to a lesser extent now), they will move toward the center. When they start winning again, they'll move back to the far right (the 1980s and '90s, and briefly in 2010-11). They'll stay together -- and if the Democrats are to continue to win, the Democrats must, too.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.