Anyone watching the news can see a growing divide between different factions in the Republican Party. There is a populist faction headed by the president. There is an establishment faction headed by figures like Mitch McConnell. And there is a main street conservative entrepreneurial faction represented by leaders like Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Senator John Thune of South Dakota.
The seeming, at very early Wednesday morning press time, Republican loss of both Senate seats in Georgia will only increase the divide as fingers will be pointed and recriminations flow freely.
Truth in advertising, I’m an acolyte of the third way and a jaded ally of the second. I appreciate populism and think it is necessary in a democratic republic. But it is too emotion driven for my particular taste. Yet all share a rejection of Democrat social nostrums and all must be present in a coalition for Republicans to win. All also are generally united against Joe Biden and the incoming administration. It is a temperamentally diverse team who want to get to most of the same goals by different methods and styles.
The recent conflict between these factions has defined the party, and will continue to, into perpetuity. It’s natural because the party and conservatism are attractive to different people for different reasons.
To the populist it’s an emotional attachment to leaders and a brave and deep love of country and values. To the establishment type it’s an intelligent and pragmatic realization of the levers of power and a desire to use those levers to achieve conservative goals when possible. To the main street conservative it’s a reasoned empirical outlook that eschews emotionalism for hard data and that distrusts the mob and those who manipulate it. Main street conservatism is very Hamiltonian, as is the establishment party, to a point. The populists take some of their strongest cues from Jefferson, except his Enlightenment views on faith and his Virginia patrician attitude.
On Wednesday we will see those factions clash in Washington. In Georgia they have been in conflict, as Republican office holders are attacked by the president. But Wednesday in DC will be the rumble up close and personal.
Those who will march on DC are patriotic people fulfilling their duty as they see fit. These populists have an a strong personal attachment to the president, as their social media posts equating him to an ADC to Jesus Christ show. They see him as a pure knight, doing battle against the forces of darkness. The president has indeed had tremendous success while in office and America is better for it. But purity may be a concept he honors more in the breach than in the observance.
On the other side of the Republican coin will be the office holders and traditional conservatives fighting to limit the damage that can be done by a Biden administration by moving on in the election fight and casting their eyes and goals to the legislative duels of the immediate future.
The marchers, and perhaps the president, seem to believe these Republicans are their enemy. But Ronald Reagan said “anybody who agrees with me 70 percent of the time isn’t my enemy.” As opposition to the Biden administration brings all factions in harness towards a common goal of stopping the hard left and Biden, Reagan’s aphorism are good words to remember.