30 Nov 2007

Republican Conflicts Within the Big Tent

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David Horsey - Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Eric Earling responds to David Horsey’s cartoon with a perceptive analysis of the tensions within the GOP.

David Horsey’s latest takes a stab at understanding the latest twist in the horserace of the Republican nominating contest. Horsey’s simplification of Rudy Giuliani as the candidate of national security conservatives, Mitt Romney for “business conservatives,” and Mike Huckabee for social conservatives doesn’t quite hold true in reality but it makes for a nice cartoon.

My hunch, however, is that observers with little more than indirect experience with social conservatives may be a bit miffed in full at how Huckabee can be rising in Iowa and in the South given his well-documented problems with economic/small government conservatives. For one, Huckabee’s rise isn’t merely a product of social conservatives, it’s specifically a product of Evangelicals (as the links in the section on Huckabee at this post describe). That’s an important point to understand even in the context of politics around here and the local GOP.

To understand what that means, take a step back from Mike Huckabee for a minute. Consider someone like him, without the baggage of a Presidential race: current Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. Since taking that gig earlier this year, Gerson has spent a good deal of time talking about the issues of the day in a manner quite similar to Huckabee (Gerson spent a full column praising him). As Ross Douthat notes in his broader critique of Gerson, many of those columns have served to make Gerson’s fellow conservatives more than a bit angry at him. More importantly, Douthat identifies one of the serious deviations from the conservative mainstream by many Evangelicals like Gerson (and thus Huckabee):

    As the world understood the term conservative in, say, 1965, Gerson isn’t one. Like many Americans who’ve crowded into the GOP over the last four decades–blue-collar Catholics and Jewish neoconservatives as well as evangelicals–the militantly libertarian spirit of the midcentury Right is largely foreign to him. But on the road from Goldwater to Reagan, and thence to George W. Bush, the conservative movement transformed itself from a narrow claque into a broad church, embracing anyone and everyone who called themselves an enemy of liberalism, whether they were New York intellectuals or Orange County housewives. This “here comes everybody” quality has been the American Right’s great strength over the past three decades, and a Republican Party that aspires to govern America can ill afford to read the Gersons of the world–social conservatives with moderate-to-liberal sympathies on economics–out of its coalition.

Not only do many Evangelicals not truly embrace the more libertarian aspects of conservative thought, they outright disagree.

Read the whole thing.

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