by Rick David
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
Political analysts are reporting that the GOP is in the midst of a civil war. The calls from both sides for a purge have escalated since the tragic defeat of 2012. Republican leaders in Congress are calling for the party to abandon its longstanding support for conservative social positions on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Their assumption is that Obama’s reelection has proved that the electorate has shifted in favor of the Democrat’s pro-abortion, pro gay marriage position.
These social-moderation calls are not new. As far back as 2008, Haley Barbour was telling Republicans that supporting a pro-choice Republican did not mean that they were compromising their values. His thinking that abandoning one’s principles in order to achieve a goal, in Barbour’s case, a Republican majority, is reminiscent of the famous 16th century political theorist Machiavelli. In his treatise The Prince, Machiavelli advocated the principle that the ends justifies the means. His writings have inspired numerous dictators and tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and even the much adored Che.
On the opposite side, conservative “purists” are calling for a revolt against the GOP Congressional leadership which appears all too willing to compromise their no tax increase pledge in order to avoid the fiscal cliff. The announced resignation of Senator Jim DeMint, a Tea party stalwart, amounts to a concession that he cannot work with the leadership. Many of the rank and file foot soldiers, the ones who do the work in the trenches, are prepared to abandon the party out of frustration.
As a political scientist, I would analyze the Republican Party as consisting of four major groups. There are the 100% conservatives. They stand for both conservative social and fiscal principles. These are the true Reaganites, the remnant of the winning coalition that he led and supported.
Then there are the New Machiavellians. They may express agreement with some conservative values, but are not committed to those values and are willing to compromise them in order to gain power, à la Haley Barbour. They trumpet conservative social values in order to win primaries and energize the troops, but they always get out the etchy-sketch and “move to the middle” in the general election.
Next, there are the RINO progressives. These are truly big government liberals in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt. They generally detest the conservative base of the party. They have an irrational fear of religious people.
Finally, the newest and youngest component is the libertarian Paulites. I refer to them as the libertine anarchists. I have had several discussions with these young people at GOP events. They have tried to find a home in the Republican Party because of Ron Paul and because they fear big government. These folks are really selfish little spoiled brats whose only committed value is self, à la Ayn Rand, whose philosophy they are steeped in.
They are usually fiscal conservatives because they mistrust government. Generally young liberal college students or graduates, they usually hold a secular atheist world view and are thus pro-choice in everything, including abortion and gay marriage. A common response is that the government shouldn’t license marriage.
These folks are just as comfortable at an Occupy protest as a GOP caucus. They loved Ron Paul, in spite of his pro-life position, primarily because of his no war position. These folks would not usually sacrifice for the defense of freedom and, like their leader, have a head in the sand attitude about threats. When their guy didn’t get the nomination in 2008, most of them voted for Obama. This time around, they voted Libertarian.
I believe that a person’s world view determines their politics. The 100% conservatives usually hold to a spiritual world view and are most likely to be evangelical Christians. The other three groups in the party consist of people who usually hold to a secular or atheist world view. It is these three groups that want the party to abandon the social conservative principles. Each side believes the others are the reason that we can’t win.
If we can’t agree, should we split? Can a 100% conservative win? Where do Americans line up? Have we changed significantly since Reagan? Answers to such questions require some research about our society in general. What do people believe about God, abortion, gay marriage, big government, entitlements, and socialism? A source that has been helpful for me has been the Barna Group (www.barna.org), which has been doing polling on these questions for almost 30 years.
For example, on the question of abortion, both Barna and Gallup find that our nation remains relatively evenly divided on the question. Neither side has a large majority.1 So why would a pro-life position handicap a candidate? Up until this past election, the question of legalizing gay marriage had lost 32 successive elections. The only factor turning the tide in two elections this time may have been Obama on the ballot.
If they really want to win elections, the secularist groups in the GOP should rethink pressuring the majority of their party to abandon their principles. They need to define the differences between a party that stands for freedom and one that purports to provide all things.
Image:Detail of Niccolò Machiavelli; artist: Santi di Tito (1536–1603);Second half of 16th c.; current location: Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy; public domain
Rick David retired from a career in business in 2011. His experience includes service in the USAF, in medical sales and in operations for an educational testing company. He has a passion for and has been actively engaged in conservative issue advocacy and campaigning for over 30 years. He currently resides in North Liberty, Iowa with his wife of 43 years and travels extensively volunteering in lay ministry.