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February 18, 2016

Ross Douthat: How to Break A Party

He writes that the party is on the verge of breaking apart because their are three blocs within the party:

The pro-business, more libertarian socially, more hawkish wing "Establishment." Douthat calls these the "Enterprisers." I'll call them what they are and say they're the Establishment.

These are the "Senior Partners" in the coalition, who, despite not being anything like a majority, nevertheless exercise dominance over the party, and determine what is "acceptable" or "unacceptable" within it. I think he ballparks their actual numerical strength at about a third.

The more religious, culturally conservative wing. These are the "Junior Partners," who get rhetoric but not results.

Then there are the people who are not even partners -- these he calls the culturally conservative but not-against-big-government sorts. The people who don't like the word "liberal," probably for cultural reasons, but are actually economically liberal (or at least not conservative).

They're not even partners. They get nothing, really. Well, they do get gun rights, I'll say that -- one of the few issues the GOP really delivers on.

I keep saying this is a revolutionary year because the point of a revolution is not merely to establish a new set of policies to follow. It's to replace personnel.

The point of a revolution is that the old order is displaced by a new order, and when I say "order," I don't mean it abstractly. I mean a different group of people sweeps into power, and sweeps the old group out.

The Junior Partners are unwilling to accept their second class status any longer, and the people who are not even partners are not wiling to accept their third class status.

Meanwhile, the Senior Partners are angry that they even have to put up with these simpletons and rubes questioning their right to rule.

The furious agitation for Rubio isn't just about Rubio -- it's about keeping the GOP's "Senior Partners" in the dominant position they've always been in, and knocking down any challengers.

As I've repeatedly shouted, the GOP must be open to a more equitable division of power through its ranks, or it will simply split apart.

It's true that Trump's 40% is not all of the party, nor is Cruz's 30% -- but then, neither is the "Senior Partner" wing's 30% all of the party, either, though they frequently act as if it is.

But they desperately want their 30% of the vote to continue giving them 100% of the veto power.

BTW, I was long a nonpartisan in this fight and considered the fights between the wings to be inside baseball and petty palace intrigues. But now that the fight is out in the open, and consuming the party, it will have to be engaged with and settled with some sort of resolution.

"We will continue to win all the important fights" is not an acceptable resolution.

A big reason for this, of course, is Obama: Obama is actually the transformationally figure he wanted to be. He is hyperpartisan, and his hyperpartisanship has exerted such pressure on the conservative coalition that the weak fissures in it have begun to crack wide open.

Nevertheless, it is clear to many people that the "Senior Partners," as Douthat calls them, seem to call all of the shots, and they are no longer content with this arrangement.

The Senior Partners simply must permit some reorganization and some serious power-sharing and decision-making, or else they'll be left a rump party, a bunch of chiefs in search of Indians to follow them.

I keep saying this, and I'll keep on saying this: You can attempt a winner-take-all strategy against an actual enemy, in this case the Democrat Party, but you cannot, or rather must not, attempt such a winner-take-all strategy against allies.

Because if you employ this All Out War attitude against allies, they'll first attempt to rebel, and then, failing that, they'll secede.

Whether the Senior Partners here -- the Establishment -- likes it or not, whether they think the religious cons are "crazy" and the poorer Republicans are just full of class envy, racism, and resentment, they'll have to being treating allies as allies, and you negotiate and share with allies. You do not keep fighting to win and keep it all.

I keep pushing Cruz for this reason. He's not a threat to the "Enterprisers," but he will also deliver a major policy demand of the Not-Even-Scraps wing, being anti-amnesty.

Rather than agree to this compromise, the Rubio wing continues to insist they'd rather go with the guy who gives them some marginal advantage in the election (current poll show him doing 1-2% better than Cruz) while not giving the Not-Even-A-Partner wing anything.

Faced with 40% of the party becoming incensed over amnesty, the Establishment has decided to compromise: Okay, you'll get Amnesty. How's that grab you?

You really hate Amnesty, so we'll benevolently grant you Amnesty, as a compromise position.

Happy now? No? What's wrong with you, racist?

What exactly are you offering one third of the party, except your contempt?

I don't get the "Smart Strategic Political Thinking" of the increasingly poorly named "GOP Smart Set."

Open Thread.

By the way, I don't think we'll do a podcast tonight. We've done a lot lately, and we probably are gassed as far as new things to say. Plus, we'll probably wind up doing one Saturday night after the primary.

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posted by Ace at 06:56 PM

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