The more I think about this Republican “civil war,” the less it looks like war to me. It often gives the appearance of being war because these Tea Party people march into the arena with a lot of fire, brimstone, and kindred pyrotechnics that suggest conflict. But what, really, in hard policy terms, are these two sides arguing about? Practically nothing. It’s a disagreement chiefly over tactics and intensity. That’s a crucial point, and so much of the media don’t understand it. But I’m here to tell you, whenever you read an article that makes a lot of hay about this “war” and then goes on to describe the Republican factions as “moderate” and “conservative,” turn the page or click away. You are either in the hands of an idiot or someone intentionally misleading you.
What’s going on presents many of the outward signs of political warfare. Insurgent radical extremists are challenging already very conservative incumbents whose thought and deed crimes are that they are conservative only 80- or 90-something percent of the time instead of 100 (or 110, preferably). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), American Conservative Union 2012 rating of 92, being challenged? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell? He got 100 percent in 2012! Hey, I was joking about that 110!
So sure, running primaries against people like this can be called warlike acts. But a real war has two sides who believe different things and are willing to fight to the death for them. In this war, that description applies only to one side.
This...skirmish, let’s call it, is between radicals and conservatives. (It certainly doesn’t involve moderates; there are roughly four moderate Republicans in Congress, depending on how you count, out of 278.) The conservatives, the more traditional conservatives such as John McCain, Orrin Hatch, and many others in the Senate, and House Speaker John Boehner, could be a force if they wanted to. But by and large, they’ve refused to be. If the GOP had two warring factions, then you might expect that on all major high-profile legislative votes, the schism would evince itself in the roll calls. But when you look back over the list of high-profile measures that have come before them while Barack Obama has been president, the conservatives and the radicals only really split on two occasions.
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