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The GOP’s War with Itself

Much hay has been made over the past couple weeks over the supposed “war” within the Republican Party.

– We’ve seen our newly-minted RNC Chairman trashing the unelected populist voice of conservatives everywhere

– We’ve witnessed one of our rising stars slightly tarnished by a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time performance on a national stage

– And then yesterday, Rod “Crunchy Con” Dreher took Victor “My Personal Favorite Non-Fiction Writer in Existence” Davis Hanson to task over the opening line of a post that mentions “highbrow conservatives” dismissively

This morning, I strolled to the entrance of my subway stop to head into work and was greeted by this cover on the NYC free daily AM New York:

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The cover story, by Emily Ngo, gives just a brief look into the strife that has seemingly enveloped the GOP of late, but manages to paint it as a looming disaster for the party and for conservatism.

“But rather than battling to regain ground lost to President Barack Obama and the Democrats, the fractured Republican Party is fighting … itself.

‘They’re beyond divisions,’ said Scott Levenson, president of the Advance Group, a Democratic consulting firm. ‘They have crevices the size of the Grand Canyon in the Republican Party that begin and end with the fact that they do not stand for anything.’ “

Now, it’s obvious that the GOP is having some problems. We’re basically out our lowest point since I’ve been alive, and probably before that. Our message needs some clarifying, and our party leaders need to get their collective act together. But to suggest that the GOP is on the verge of collapsing in on itself is as ludicrous as Obama’s claim that not passing the stimulus bill within hours would push the nation into a catastrophic depression.

However, just as with the various “facts” that managed to stick to Sarah Palin during the campaign, just as George W. Bush is widely viewed as a raving moron, unless the GOP does something to counter the image put forth by the Dems and their allies in the media, the perception will rapidly become reality. What we are going through is nothing but a normal period of adjustment and clarification after years of coasting on a consistently growing economy and general “customer satisfaction.” It’s healthy and normal, and ultimately I firmly believe that the party will emerge from this (hopefully brief) era stronger, less corrupt and more focused. But to allow this minor strife to be painted as a cataclysmic divide is to give way to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is understood that manufacturing internal strife among opponents is a tactic that the Obama team is happy to employ. They haven’t exactly been subtle about their intentions. But conservatives need to wise up and stop taking the bait. There is absolutely nothing wrong with internal debate. As I said above, the party and the movement definitely needs to figure out what it stands for in this day and age. Hopefully, we’ll decide that we still stand for exactly what we’ve always stood for: Individual liberty, small government, low taxes and national defense.

But while we have this important debate, we also need to realize that any and every sign of internal turmoil is going to be exploited to no end by the Dems and the mainstream media. They are going to pounce on any little thing that can be spun as dissent in the ranks or evidence of the end of the GOP as an effective party. For Michael Steele to go on national television and make the statements that he did is inexcusable, except by saying that he made a mistake. If he truly believes that the work done by Rush Limbaugh is “ugly,” then he should step down. Otherwise, if he just got caught up in the excitement of hanging out with such intellectual and political luminaries as D.L. Hughley, and wanted to act like he was one of the cool guys, then he needs to make sure it never happens again.

There’s nothing wrong with debate between intellectual peers in the blogosphere, such as Dreher and Hanson. In fact, I would gladly pay to witness a debate between the two. But for Dreher to take a single line out of Hanson’s post and use it to craft a post painting the GOP as disdainful of cultural sophistication does more harm than good. Few people beyond the right are going to take the time to read through what Dreher and Hanson are actually saying, instead they’ll simply see the media message “GOP strife continues” and take that as fact. They won’t understand that Dreher and Hanson are simply ironing out minor wrinkles in the broad conservative fabric, they’ll take it as a scorching hole in a now-ruined garment (to completely torture a metaphor).

Similarly, following the Bobby Jindal speech the other night, the media jumped all over conservatives or Republicans who were disappointed by the Governor’s performance. Effectively lost in the hubbub was the strong conservative message that this great young man delivered. And by arguing over Jindal’s cadence, or seeming nervousness on the national stage the right allowed the Dems to frame it as a comparison between Obama and Jindal and their relative ease with a teleprompter. We’re going to lose such a contest most every time.

But to allow the media to ignore Jindal’s actual message in favor of lamenting his supposed lack of polish or seeming nervousness is to allow the left to win without even offering a fight. Yes, image is important. But after a year or two of nothing but image and retirement savings dropping like a stone, the public is going to want substance, not polish, and that’s when we need to have a Bobby Jindal or a Sarah Palin positioned as our leader, someone who can make an articulate case for strong conservatism without resorting to meaningless doublespeak and phony slogans.

We have a small grace period right now. Obama and the Dems can do little right at the moment, and seem content to dig themselves deeper into a hole. The new administration has seen little but bad press since the inaugeration, and because of that they’ve embarked on this strategy of attacking real or perceived opponents on the right, trying to unify support behind defeating a “common enemy” rather than dealing with their own mounting problems. This is all well and good, it’s to be expected, but for the right to play directly into their hands and continue to publicly infight and denounce one another in the media is a terrible mistake.

This is the time that we need to be united in opposition to creeping socialism and consolidation of power by the Dems. We need to be able to simplify our focus on our common enemy – the rapidly expanding government and the monumental deficits, spending and taxes that will accompany it. This should be a simple case to make to the American people, and Republicans should be willing to put aside their pet issues at a time like this and focus on a single, larger goal:

To reestablish the GOP as the party of individual freedoms, fiscal responsibility and limited, honest government. This should be our platform going forth – any other issues can wait.

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03/05/2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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