Troy Senik of the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) has written a fine piece on the growing “fissure” within the Republican Party that has lain largely dormant for years — namely the “divide” that separates Conservatives and Establishment Republicans.
Conservatives, represented mostly by those in the Tea Party Movement, are largely responsible for the Republican Party re-capture of the House of Representatives in 2010. The Establishment folks sort of know that and sometimes mutter a few grudging words of acknowledgment, but they are loathe to raise the subject or deal with it in any serious way. Nor do the Establishment types see themselves as any kind of “faction” within the party. To them, they are the party.
Take for example the nominally conservative Jeb Bush, who seems to scoff at the notion of a party “establishment”. Says Jeb:
I don’t know what the Republican establishment is. I haven’t learned the secret handshake, and I don’t know where to go for a membership card.
Senik defines the Establishment types as:
… long-time denizens of Washington or other loci of power. They are institutionalized elected officials, money men, party leaders, or grandees of business, consultancies or advocacy groups. And they are often made suspect by the duration of their power, a trait that gives pause to Conservatives who believe that a dedication to limited government entails a devotion to not assimilating to the ways of the Beltway.
These include, of course, the very same Republicans who were present when the House and Senate voted for entitlement programs that any competent accountant could have shown to be impossible to pay for — ever. With their “old friends across the aisle” (a favorite John McCain phrase), they have effectively signed our children and grandchildren into debt bondage. Did they try to warn us? Did they try to stop the growth of these programs? Shame on them. Recently, they had a chance to make at least a show of repentance by voting for term limits. Alas, even that token gesture was too much for Senators like McCain and Jon Kyl. They voted against term limits. Double shame on them.
Senik concludes with the following observations and a call to Conservatives to prepare for a long-term struggle with the Establishment as well as the Democrats.
The establishment had its turn at the wheel over the last decade and the conservative movement reaped a whirlwind as a result. Federal spending and deficits increased; regulation proliferated; entitlements expanded; embarrassing pork projects passed through Congress as part of a gentleman’s agreement in which both parties agreed to gorge their special interest benefactors; bailouts were given to the financial and automotive industries, and, in the end, the Republican Party was rebuked at the ballot box.
Conservatives should not delude themselves into thinking this is a passing trend. Over the past century, only three men – Calvin Coolidge, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan – were able to beat back establishment pretensions and earn the party’s presidential nomination. As of this writing, it looks unlikely that a similarly situated candidate will earn the nomination in 2012.
Many Tea Partiers and their sympathists will undoubtedly interpret this as a source of grief. But their demoralization is premature. A short-term focus on beating the establishment has not yielded fruit. That calls not for sorrow, but for a long-term focus on replacing it outright.
To that last line, I can only add amen.