There was once an understanding in the Republican Party, that several wings of it would come together and share responsibility for nominating leaders to represent them. The wings each had different, and sometimes contradictory goals, so the Big Tent was a difficult thing to manage. But truly exceptional Conservative leaders could manage it. When they did so, their cultural power was nearly unbreakable.
The one that sticks out in recent memory was, of course, Ronald Reagan. The party united behind him like it never had before. The Reagan years were optimistic, for the economy sputtered and coughed back to life. America’s military might expanded rapidly. Her hegemonic influence spread across the globe as Marxism and militant Islam beat a hasty retreat. Prior to his ascension, it seemed like Communism was slowly, but inexorably, conquering the globe. Militant Islam, too, made its presence felt.
That all fell away in the 1980s.
The cultural power wielded by Conservatives in these days was nearly as absolute as that FDR once wielded. Even after Reagan’s term ended, both squishy Establishment Republican George Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton had to pay homage to that legacy. In a sense, George W. Bush was the last of that legacy. He, like his father, was also an Establishment wing Republican, but despite his many flaws, the party still grudgingly fell into line behind him. The Big Tent, fracturing though it was, managed to unify one last time.
But George W. Bush was no Ronald Reagan, and those that came after him were unable to keep the party’s wings together. McCain’s attempt to bridge the gap with Sarah Palin actually demonstrated just how divided the party really was. Mitt Romney proved to the other wings that the Establishment Country Club Republicans were no longer interested in sharing power at all. He may have been a good and decent man, otherwise, but he was also proof that the pact which had launched Ronald Reagan into office and temporarily reversed the Leftist conquest of America was no longer being honored.
Glenn Beck tells us that Trump supporters are racists. Trump supporters famously coined the #cuckservative tag to humiliate the self-defeating efforts of the Establishment Republicans, opening the country’s legs for any idiot or crazy who wants in. Everybody calls everyone else a RINO. Libertarians will back anyone, so long as their last name is “Paul” and their first name begins with an “R.” Social-Religious Conservatives demand another Sarah Palin, for at least they have the good sense to realize that Mike Huckabee is a moron, and a poor choice for their cause. Let’s not even start on the lunacy of the Establishment wing and Jeb Bush, famously explaining that Asian anchor babies are more of a threat than Mexican ones. It would seem he has contracted terminal Foot-in-Mouth disease.
The wings of the Republican party are fuzzy and many, but here are some of the prominent ones. And do please note that I’m not trying to insult the adherents to these wings (except, perhaps, the Establishment wing). Rather, I am trying to point out where they naturally conflict with one another:
1. The Libertarians: their priorities are maximum social and economic freedom. This causes them to waffle on issues like border control and terrorist suppression, both important to other wings. They also get into trouble with Social-Religious Conservatives on things like gay marriage and abortion. They are dovish on foreign policy, or at the very least, rather neutral. There is a certain perception of them as somewhat loony, for this is the only wing in which you may find 9/11 Truthers in significant numbers.
2. The Establishment: these guys are often barely discernible from Democrats. Most are “moderates” of some stripe. They can be grudgingly forced into action by the electorate, for they follow political winds astutely. Some, like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney may actually be pretty decent men, overall, even if they are overly concerned with personal power and the interests of government and large corporate entities. They have immense resources and currently control the power centers of the GOP, but are rapidly losing control of their own constituents.
3. Social-Religious Conservatives: this is what the Left tends to think of as the “real” Republicans. They are usually just regular folk with a strong Biblical inclinations. Unlike what the Left often says of them, most don’t really want a theocracy. But to people hostile to Christianity it can sure sound that way. They are very focused on tradition, and tend to be hawkish on foreign policy, but often embarrass the other wings by interrupting debates to discuss things like gay marriage or abortion. Thus they frequently get into it with Libertarians.
4. Moderates: there is considerable overlap between the Moderates and the Establishment, but the key difference is that for moderates, the middle ground is a moral imperative instead of a political one. They agree with Democrats on a lot of social issues, but still tend to remain hawkish on foreign policy. When someone says they are “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” they are probably a moderate. Libertarians dislike their big-government support, and Social Conservatives dislike their Democrat-ish social views. Yet, at the same time, some of them get into it with the Establishment, who they see as fake, and only accepting similar views because of political expedience rather than genuine principle.
5. The Anti-Establishment: this is your “burn it down” wing of the party. They are often what I like to call “Post-Libertarians” or ex-Moderates who have just gotten sick of the whole shitshow. They have had enough. There is a strong Populist streak to them, and naturally they are more or less constantly at war with the Establishment wing. To say they loathe big government is a gross understatement. They are borderline-radicals who probably wouldn’t be too bothered if a second Civil War started tomorrow, for at least then they could collect Establishment scalps. They are ultra-hawks, the Tom Kratmans and Vox Days of the world on warfare and immigration/border-control, respectively.
6. Hippie-Cons: Surprised at the title? No, really, these guys actually exist. They are very much the “heal the divide” and “we love everybody” Republicans. There is some overlap with Social-Religious Conservatives and Libertarians. They feel as if there has been too much division in America and want to bring people back together. Obviously they tend to be rather dovish on foreign policy, at least compared to the Anti-Establishment and Social-Religious Conservatives. And, like Democrats, they tend to be more welcoming of large-scale immigration and refugees. Yet, conversely, they are often very Libertarian on other matters, while still tending to be rabidly anti-abortion.
There are others, of course, but that sums up the major players. And the thing of it is, the tent simply isn’t big enough to hold all of them any more. Trump has rallied the support of the Anti-Establishment guys in a big way, and has some support from Moderates as well. He has absolutely alienated the Hippie-Cons (see: Glenn Beck), and the Libertarians are very suspicious of him, wondering if he’s a Trojan Horse for fascism.
But then Jeb Bush is being mercilessly attacked by the Anti-Establishment guys, the Libertarians and even a good number of Social-Religious Conservatives now. The only thing they can all agree on is that they hate Jeb Bush. Rand Paul is pretty much the only guy for the Libertarians, at the moment. Everyone else is probably a war monger or a racist.
The Republican Party needs another Ronald Reagan, but it’s not likely to get one. So where do we go from here?
Personally, I’m taking a risk and throwing in with Trump, at the moment. I have waffled between the Libertarian and Anti-Establishment side of things, and so I am simultaneously worried that this man might go too far, but really wanting to destroy the GOP Establishment. Breaking them to heel is one of the highest priorities on my list, for it is they who have brought us to this point.
If the Establishment guys had shared power with the other wings, we wouldn’t be at one another’s throats. But if wishes were horses…
Trump tapped the angry, disillusioned Conservatives who want direct ideological warfare with the Leftist enemy and have had it with the Old Guard GOP. Jeb Bush and the “moderates” represent the Country Club, business as usual wing that has been around since as long as I can remember. They are the old Rockefeller Republican types. As far as I’m concerned they are off my list.
As to Glenn Beck’s accusation, Trump supporters aren’t racists. But they are angry, loud, obnoxious and want immediate action on the illegal immigration issue, and have no tolerance left for militant Islam. Their empathy has been tapped out, so to speak. No more political correctness remains to them. So the sudden inflammatory language sounds racist to ears unaccustomed to hearing it, especially to folks like Glenn Beck who are always talking about peace, love and understanding. I mean, the guy is one of the hippie-cons I mentioned. His show is full of peace, love-thy-enemy, let’s-all-get-along rhetoric.
I don’t like Trump. And I genuinely like Glenn Beck. But at the same time, I’d rather have Trump running the show than anyone Glenn Beck endorses. America doesn’t need any more softies in power – it needs an asshole, a douchebag, a complete bastard, but one we can hold to account and prevent from going too far. Doing this will put a stop to the world walking all over us, which it has become accustomed to doing from Obama’s years of weakness and submission.
America is perched on a knife-edge right now. I don’t like our options one bit. But, for now, I’m leaning Trump. As for those who disagree with me, I’m going to avoid the sin of my Anti-Establishment compatriots and NOT disrespect you. Indeed, I have decided to tone down my own rhetoric some in this respect. Someday, I want to heal the Big Tent and bring us back together. It is simply that today is not that day. I ask that you do the same for me.