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The Republican Civil War is Here – Green Dragon
Nov 112012

Months ago, when I first launched Green Dragon, I wrote a post about the implications for the future of the Republican Party of the effectiveness of the Obama campaign’s critiques of Bain Capital and its vulture capitalism. I said a civil war within the Republican Party was coming…one that would make the Tea Party split look like a garden picnic.

Well, it’s here.

Each of the GOP’s three major blocs is reeling, trying to make sense of a campaign result it did not anticipate and which flies in the face of its core beliefs. With the reelection of the President, trouncing of anti-abortion candidates and unprecedented approvals both of marriage equality and election of openly gay legislators, Republicans now know that 2008 wasn’t a fluke. It appears finally to be dawning on conservatives that their imagined version of the United States simply is not real.

Take the Christian right, for example, who seem at last to be figuring out that they do not represent the values of most Americans. Their internal narrative has always been that if they can just get out their message, most Americans will agree with them. But this time they turned out more than ever, and issues like women’s rights to contraception and abortion and gay rights were front-and-center in the national campaign narrative. And they got their clocks cleaned.

I think many of them are now realizing that America isn’t what they always thought it was. Some have begun thinking that they don’t want to be Americans any more (though they wouldn’t say it that way)…instead, they want to carve themselves away from the places that aren’t “real” America, and create that imaginary Christian Murikkka they’ve always hoped for.

All three of the major GOP constituencies are in a world of hurt and confusion. The Plutocrats got nothing out of all that Citizens United spending; the Teahaddists saw broad support for a party that put itself squarely behind higher taxes on the rich as well as progressive social issues…and now they’re having to listen to party leadership opining that they must make common cause with a buncha dirty Meskins in order to have a prayer of succeeding.

This is a storm long brewing, and it is definitely here. None of these constituencies has anywhere to turn in a quest for a return to national political viability that doesn’t put a dagger through its most cherished nonnegotiables: backing away from attacks on women’s health rights and civil equality for the Christian conservatives; accepting higher taxation and regulation of industry and markets for the corporatist Plutocrats; abandoning racism and extremist positions on taxation and the role of government for the Tea-Party types.

I don’t see any of them but the Plutocrats being smart or realistic enough to be able to make those moves. Sure enough, today Bill Kristol says that raising taxes on millionaires won’t destroy the country. Not that Kristol is either smart or realistic—in fact, he’s so reliably wrong that when he says this, it give me pause—but he’s a sure indicator of what the Rulers of the Universe are willing to go for.

For 40 years, Republicans have succeeded by feeding voters a steady diet of dog-whistle racism, empty gestures to social conservatives, and anti-government rhetoric, all the while taking a wrecking ball to our national institutions, previously inviolable values, and the very Constitution itself. It was a strategy of division, and now it has come home to roost: increasingly in the minority, Republicans are divided not only from the majority of the country, but from one another.

I wouldn’t say it is what they deserve, because frankly, those who devised and pursued this strategy deserve far worse. But I will say this: it’s about damned time most of the country can see how bloody awful these people really are.

At publication, the Dragon was EATING POPCORN

  23 Responses to “The Republican Civil War is Here”

  1. I’m doubting there’ll be a civil war now, because the GOP leaders know better how bad that would be for their party and they can likely hold onto the House of Reps because of Gerrymandering so long as they don’t piss off their tea-party or religious right activist bases too much.


    • They don’t have any choice. The interests of the three poles of their coalition have diverged. The Civil War is happening. Tea Partiers aren’t going to happily go along with liberalized immigration laws. Evangelicals aren’t just going to say, oh, okay, I guess we lost on abortion and gays, time to move on.

      The war is here. There’s no debate any longer about whether or not it’s going to happen.

      • There are strong economic incentives to engage in subterfuge.
        And I think it’s pretty damn obvious that the fruits of war will be terrible for all three..,
        since our system is a winner-take-all system so a weaker major party will be severely disadvantaged.

        • Their alternative is to lose. Each will be fighting to make some other bloc sacrifice what IT wants so they can keep their own precious priorities. The Tea Party doesn’t have financial incentive to bow down to the corporatists, nor the evangelicals to the Tea Party. Their interests have diverged, and they have already begun to screech at one another about the direction they should be going. Each, of course, says the Party should be moving more in its own direction.

          There is no way to avoid this. It’s happening.

        • Read your linked post, btw–you are mistaken that the federal government can control how the states design their Congressional districts. It can’t–that is a state right so long as it conforms to the ruling jurisprudence about equal weighting of votes.

          • Some in the tea-party or evangelicals can and probably have been given strong financial incentives to manipulate their flocks.

            In 2010, the GOP got control of many state legislative gov’ts and thereby got the rights to redraw the fed’l congressional districts in many of our states.


          • Yes–that’s what I said, it’s a state thing. In the 2012 election, for the first time in 60 years the party that received more votes for Congress nonetheless remains in the House.

          • …that should have been, “…nonetheless remains in the House MINORITY.” 🙂

  2. The GOP leadership wields economic power and they can always wait out post-election-outrages that they have proxies respond to in as concilitory frame as is feasible…

    We will see, but I think proclamations of a civil war are wishful thinking, so long as there’s a GOP House majority to safeguard and a flexible, conniving GOP leadership.


    • You don’t seem to be following the news, dlw. The “GOP leadership” can no longer lead, because Tea Partiers and evangelicals are no longer following. That’s been true increasingly since 2010.

      The House has been in civil war for two years, with the Cantor/Ryan crowd trying to push out Boehner. Herman Cain is calling for the Tea Party to split off; the Family Research Council is crying over their newly discovered fringe-ness.

      This isn’t a theoretical claim: it’s factual, it’s happening, it’s just getting worse.

      • I agree there are serious tensions.

        I treat the GOP majority in the House as essentially a two-party coalition, because that’s how they act.

        But that’s a far cry from a civil war…

        I have a google search for GOP and “civil war” and it’s not shown signs of a civil war. There’d be a torrent, not a trickle of blogs on a GOP civil war if there really were a GOP civil war.

        It could still happen, but a lot of that is wishful thinking I believe.

        The FRC is too much in bed with the GOP to wage war on it, even if it’s being downgraded in the wake of the election…


        • I guess Google must no longer be crawling the major liberal blogs, because discussion of the Republican civil war is all over them.

          But that’s beside the point. Facts aren’t determined by a popular vote. What you describe is a civil war: the question is whether any of the three factions will elect to team up against the third for control of the Party. At the moment, it appears the social conservatives and plutocrats are throwing the Tea Party under the bus on immigration and taxes. The Tea Party, meanwhile, is talking third party, which they’ve always leaned towards, given their hostility to established Republican leadership and infatuation with Ron Paul.

          By suggesting that the House majority is in reality two parties, you concur that the civil war is already occuring. Given that this majority can only have one Majority Leader and these “two parties” have been in largely open warfare over whether that should be Boehner or Cantor (or Ryan, for that matter), that spells civil war by any reasonable definition.

          Which, honestly, is what I think you’re really quibbling about: definitions. The facts that these are clearly definable camps, that their interests diverge, and that each is now jockeying against the others for position and to preserve its own agenda at the expense of the others more than against the Democrats makes the characterization pretty inarguable, in my opinion.

          But clearly, your mileage varies. Thanks for the discussion.

          • I will concede.

            There is a GOP “civil war”.

            But I think that pragmatists at the top of all three factions know that the US system is so hard on weaker major parties and third parties that they will be endeavoring to put lipstick on the pig since the third party exit-threat will be a hard one to follow through on(It can be done, but there’ll be no super-PAC money for a 3rd party who can’t win elections and provide a return…).

            So perhaps it’ll be a cold civil war?

          • I suspect it will go hot and cold at various times, just as it did when Tea-Party types split off for the Reform Party and Perot in the 90s. It’ll have the same result, too.

            Part of the point of this essay is that there are not “pragmatists at the top of all three factions”. Nor do the leaders of any of the factions except the Plutocrats have the ability to control their rank and file members any longer. Even if evangelical leaders decide they have to let go of their hostility to gay marriage, for example (and some of them have pretty much said that in recent days), the local-scale preachers and their congregations are not going to go along.

            And you think Tea Partiers care what ANY Republican leader has to say? They’re reflexively hostile to authority.

            As for SuperPAC $…it doesn’t seem to have made much of a dent at a national scale thus far.

  3. A few examples from DK. A quick search showed 128 results for the search string “Republican civil war” since Nov. 5:

    Head of Focus on the Family admits culture war defeat

    Notes from the GOP Civil War

    First Shots Fired in the Coming GOP Civil War

    The Republican Civil War is Starting

    • thank you, these were good links.
      I still think lefty activists are pushing the civil war motif in part out of wishful thinking…

      Tea-party conservative activists can huff and then puff but they won’t end how our system is “winner-take-all” without helping a whole lot of lefty parties that they’d rather not help and so their best option will be to stick with the GOP.

      • I agree they will not change the system. But they can sure shatter the coalition they’ve been working within because it doesn’t sufficiently deliver on their goals, and that is what they are doing.

  4. I remember, after the Gore and Kerry defeats, the Democratic party having a similar soul-searching. What the Democratic party did after those defeats is stop painting themselves as being against God and religion, and they started making the electorate become aware that they were in touch with Christian beliefs. They pointed out that Jesus never said anything bad about gay people nor abortion; that Jesus talked a lot about feeding the poor and healing the sick.

    I remember, during the Bush administration, a fellow Christian saying “I want to vote for Bush because he’s a Christian, but I don’t like this war in Iraq”. Sure, having the Democrats talk about God probably offended far-left atheists, but those atheists are going to vote Democrat anyway since they usually lean left and there just aren’t enough of them to win an election.

    In addition, the Democratic party realized that they did not have to always take the high ground. The Democrats responded to Citizens United by having massive fundraisers. The Democrats responded to ugly attack ads by airing their own attack ads.

    The challenges the Republican party face are far deeper. A party that has been pandering to bigots can not all of a sudden say “People who do not have our exact same form of religion or who have a different skin color than us are OK” without losing a large percentage of their voters (to see what would happen, look at which presidential candidate the southern states voted for in the 1968 presidential election).

    I am really glad that Obama’s victory last Tuesday (that day was birthday and it was the best birthday I have ever had) has finally popped the bubble of lies and self-deceptions the right has been living in these last four years. I hope they can become a viable party again–even though I am a yellow dog Democrat, I acknowledge the Democrats need viable competition–but I don’t know how the Republicans can do that.

    • As a brief follow-up, it looks like some Republicans still just don’t get it. People still in denial about 2010’s demographics really deserve a Condescending Wonka Speaking of Wonka, Gene Wilder is a strong Democrat who supports both Obama and the Democrats getting more seats in the Senate. Akin and Mourdock had two senate seats the Republicans lost because they took the fundamentalist hard line position; so, yeah, I’m sure Wilder would love to see other Republicans continue to talk like that.

    • I agree, except that I’m still seeing mass denial among GOP leaders and talking heads. Boehner’s funhouse-mirror claim that Republicans “have a mandate not to raise taxes”, for example.

      As you say, a party which has built itself around exclusion, discrimination, and inflexible ideologies is far more likely to fly into pieces than suddenly to become inclusive and welcoming of diversity. There is nothing in the self-identity of any of the three blocs that fits with such a transformation…except, as I pointed out, that the Plutocrats want power, period, and are practical enough to play the board as it really lays, rather than pretending it doesn’t.

  5. Good essay, Mark, but I’m not buying it. Some on the left have been making all kinds of talk about these alleged three factions of the GOP coming to each other’s throats, supposedly because their respective basic world-views are logically incompatible. However, I think we tend to forget that logic has nothing to do with any of their worldviews, and this unites them. I think the Venn diagram of these groups has way more overlap than leftward intellectuals believe. E.g., Paul Ryan is a Randian plutocrat for-sure, but he is also the darling of the teabuggers for his tax-cut craziness, and though he is Catholic the evangelicals love him for his contempt for women and gays. One big well-not-exactly-happy zombie family. Sure, there are spats, but I just don’t think that the liberal blogosphere, much worse MSNBC, are reliable windows into Republican inner dynamics.

    There are substantial differences between a civil war and a plain ol’ fashioned clusterfuck. For one thing, a civil war requires recognizable uniforms.

    You bring up Krystol’s acquiescence to taxing the rich as a case in point, but to which of these three posses do you name him, and which of the other three did he diss? What he is is a standard-issue neocon who, having the brains of a bus, pretty much usually takes the line of every other talking head in the GOP menagerie. Where I see the real knives coming out in his “It won’t kill the country if Republicans raise taxes a little bit on millionaires” line is that it was a still-small-voice of unwelcome reason that butts up against the cacophonous, bellowing legions of undead Limbaughs and O’Reillys and Coulters and Noonans, etc. etc. I see the real heat within the party going toward anyone who might accidentally stop and reason, and maybe think about the good of the whole country for a change. That doesn’t make for a war because voices of reason are far too few and too easily frightened into submission or disposed of.

    If there is going to be anything like a “civil war” within the Republican party, I think it would have to come through a sizable cadre of expatriate moderate intellectual conservatives re-joining the party as an organized insurgent movement with a loud call to rope in the tinfoil hat crowd and marginalize the hard-right media machine. Now THAT would be a war, and I doubt it will ever happen. Reasonable moderate conservatives with brains have come to enjoy their status as independents, and don’t much enjoy the company of the brain-eaters.

    • Well, Robin, we shall see, but in the week since the election, my thesis has held up pretty well…in fact, since 2010, it’s been spot on. Lockstep saluting of Those Greater Than Ourselves used to be the core ethic of the Republican Party, but that is over. As the various flavors of bomb-thrower call for even more purity in relation to their particular grinding-axes (okay, let’s just toss a bunch of metaphors into the food processor and see what happens, shall we?), they’re headed away from common cause with their GOP brethren, not towards it.

      I’m not saying they’re going to vote Democratic. I’m saying their party is being drawn and quartered by its alienated factions. I don’t see any reason to believe that isn’t so. I expect another attempt at a “real conservative” third party in the next cycle or two.

    • Oh, and Kristol? He’s a toady, first and foremost, who just gabbles GOP talking points however inane they may happen to be, but his personal bent has been as a neocon. The thing there is that since the end of the Cold War, the National Security Conservative has become an antique minority, disproportionately represented in leadership, punditry and government. There was a brief resurgence after 9/11, but the neoconjob in Iraq soured all but the more reactionary on their message (which is why Rudy Giuliani is now such a punchline).

      So while the neocons have soapboxes and access, they don’t really represent any votes. They are no longer a major grassroots bloc, although the Tea Party people, being paranoid, xenophobic and fond of macho swagger, certainly include many who buy into their view of the world.

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