The GOP has always been a party split between two wings: The social conservatives on one end, and the pro-business, deficit-focused, country-clubbers on the other.Usually it’s been the latter in power, with the former providing the grassroots support and organizational heft to keep the whole thing going.
It’s tempting to view the rise of the Tea Party through that lens, and speculate about some new chapter in the back-and-for the battle between the two wings, but actually the old paradigm is out.
Take for example John Boehner. He’s probably been talking about the deficit and spending and taxes his entire career, but in reality he’s been pretty mainstream, never having seriously accomplished anything on this front. That’s the case with most of the in-club. They talk but don’t act. During the Bush years, when they could do anything they wanted, spending and taxation weren’t put to wildly different levels than they were under Clinton. The changes were marginal. Even the tax cuts.
But the new upstart Republicans actually appear to have a back bone on this stuff. We seriously believe that Rand Paul won’t vote for any budget that’s not balanced. It’d be very surprising if he sold out and compromised. That’s probably the case with incoming Delaware Senator Christine O’Donnell, and Alaska’s Joe Miller, and some of these other rock-ribbed Tea Partiers. Yes, those candidates have their social views, but in a weird way this is a split between folks who talk about shrinking the size of the government, and those who seriously seem inclined to do it.
It’s really not the old social cons vs. country clubbers split at all.
And because the Tea Partiers are the heart of the GOP, and because the GOP has everything to gain by opposing Obama for the next two years at every turn, we might actually have a pretty wild couple of years on our hands.
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