Friday, February 8, 2013

The GOP 'civil war'

As evidenced by the heated Karl Rove debate, the GOP is struggling with continuing internal discord. Conversely, the Democrats possess a relatively stable party unity.

From my perspective, there are two main reasons for this dichotomy.

First- social policy. Where Democrats have a pretty consistent foundation of alignment on social concerns (pro-gay marriage, pro-choice etc), Republicans are riven by division. Some believe that life begins at conception and must be protected with absolutist government action. Others are pro-choice. Some support gay rights, others stand in unrepentant opposition. Others are somewhere in between. But, because of the deep importance of these issues, concerning as they do, notions of freedom, equality, tradition, history, religion and life itself, Republican disagreements here are often profoundly emotion. As a result, conflicts over social issues are able to burrow into passionately held and often personal disputes over other political concerns. In essence, if you believe that your fellow Republican endorses rape or on the flip side, endorses murder, finding common ground on any issue is difficult. For my views on social policy, see this Week piece

The second reason? Contrasting understandings over the role of government. Here, while Democrats believe in the active growth of government power and the notion of government as a mechanism for good, Republicans are less sure. Some GOPers support government power in certain fields, for example on defense. Others, Rand Paul for example, believe in a government that is not only smaller, but also less active (both at home and abroad). Again, because of the importance of these considerations; foreign policy, taxation and spending etc, these disputes hold a viscerally ideological quality. A quality that spills into a deeper distrust of the opposing voice.
When it comes to social policy and government power, a stable party comfort or at the very least, reciprocity of respect, is crucial for a party's unity and external appeal. Presently absent of that unity, the GOP is struggling to break free from a political sectarianism that regards disagreement as treasonous stupidity. And without a coherent internal polity, Republicans are naturally unable to persuade external independent voters what we stand for. And why they should vote for us. Personally, I believe that we must stand for freedom.

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