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July 12, 2005

The Republican Coalition

Guest columnist Ed Stephan at the liberal blog, The Carpetbagger Report, discusses 19th century author Herbert Spencer, who he calls the granddaddy of conservatives.

Stephan writes:

Spencer's philosophy highlights the fundamental conflict in today's Republican Party. Business must, he says, ultimately come into conflict with both Government and Religion. For Business to triumph, Government must be reduced to its "protective functions" only — protection of life, property and contracts. He obviously opposed any scheme involving government direction of the marketplace, much less such "promotive functions" as health, education, welfare, any forms of the pursuit of happiness. And even regarding simple protection of life, he favored a drastic reduction in spending on military adventures which he regarded as nearly always harmful to Business. There should be no interference by Religion in the marketplace either. If I want to hire a prostitute, or consume tainted horse meat, or hire someone our society disapproves of … so be it; it's no one else's business what I do, so long as I threaten no else (pretty radical thinking for a conservative).

This is clearly the fundamental three-way contradiction in today's GOP — laissez faire (or "Log Cabin") Libertarians vs. neo-con (often chickenhawk) Militarists vs. parochial (and pharisaic) Theocrats. Wall Street vs. the Pentagon vs. Evangelical Fundamentalism. Greed vs. Guns vs. God. Cheney vs. Rumsfeld vs. Dobson.

Stephan presents the hope of the Democrats that these are warring factions within the Republican party, and that the conflict of these ideas will accomplish what the Democratic party cannot without ideas.

The Republican Party is a coalition of interests, although the groups’ battles are largely on the field of debate and discussion not the ballot box, because the Democratic Party presents an alternative too far a field, and the Libertarian Party is an expression of principle not a viable voting option.

The libertarians, neo-cons, and evangelicals will rally around a reasonably conservative Republican against nearly any Democrat that can be nominated with the Party's current leftist lean.

There is a fourth faction of Republicans that represent many of those currently in Washington—-the big-government Republicans. This group is odds with the libertarians, to be sure, but they are also on a course away from traditional limited-government conservatism.

This analysis also breaks down because there are a large number of libertarian-minded, national defense obsessed, moral values Republicans.

A possible rupture among the Republicans will come if the President nominates an individual for the Supreme Court who has the social libertarian impulses of O’Connor, rather than the moral conservatism of Thomas. Then we’ll see a fracture led by the evangelicals and conservative Catholics that may endanger the Republicans in the 2006 elections.

Posted by Jim at July 12, 2005 08:57 AM

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