06 February 2008

The Three Factions of the Republican Party

While the Democratic Party has been endeavoring to factionalize its supporters over the past 30 years, amongst various racial, ethnic and social lines, and using the bonanza of government programs to pay off each in turn, the Republicans coalesced on a Cold War concept of uniting various strands of conservatism that started with Barry Goldwater and reached a peak with Ronald Reagan. Just as the Democratic Party has been working to factionalize itself, and the US population, the Republicans have slowly been decohering along differential lines in its three main strains. Today those three main strains are apparent at first glance at the leader board:

1) Security Conservatives (aka NeoCons or MilCons) - This faction represents the concept of American strength abroad as represented by its armed forces. Traditionally this has been the 'glue' that held the Republican Party together during the last stages of the Cold War, and has been one to justify expenses for the armed forces in securing the Nation abroad against attack. This faction has traditionally lacked three things to give it broader appeal within the Republican Party, on its own:

  • Fiscal Policy - The ability to tax and spend has led this faction as the main deficit groups in the last stages of the Cold War only to be outdone by Democratically emplaced 'entitlements'.
  • Social Policy - A tin ear has been turned, repeatedly, to the Social Conservatives inside the party in the justification that if you can't defend the Nation then there will be no society to defend.
  • Domestic Policy - Here the SecCons fail greatly either assenting to liberal 'entitlements' so as to appease those groups or seeking Moderate or Liberal solutions to social problems so as to return concentration to Security.

Taken as a whole, this set of views plays out as: Security Hawks, Social Moderate to Liberal, and Fiscally Liberal.

2) Fiscal Conservatives - This group has represented the old 'Rockefeller Republicans' and big business faction in the Republican Party. Their money still holds sway in the party and they utilize that to push tax reform forward, but put little effort in following up concepts of minimizing government. So long as government 'growth' is moderate, the need to cut back on it is minimized. Additionally this group does not respect the need to enforce trade law abroad or security at home or abroad as its goal is the expansion of trade and wealth, not enforcing security. Thus it gets three main problems that does not allow it wider appeal:

  • Social Policy - Like the SecCons this tends towards Moderate to Liberal, on the justification that society produces business and government is put in place to ensure that society governs the Nation. Further, expansion of trade is given as a problematic point of expanding liberty while, in fact, it just expands trade and not social ideals.
  • Security Policy - As the military is a fixed asset concept, it needs only maintenance costs and is far too expensive to use abroad. A sound economy is driven by a large workforce, thus security is not a concern either at home or abroad to Fiscal Conservatives.
  • Domestic Policy - The FiCons oppose expansion of 'entitlements' beyond the limits of what the economy can provide and would, generally, prefer more money to stay at home for investment rather than squandered by government. That said reduced security at home means seeking socially Moderate or Liberal plans to appease factions of the population.

Taken as a whole this group is: Fiscally Conservative, Socially Moderate to Liberal, and Security Moderate to Liberal.

3) Social Conservatives - This group represents the Socially Conservative section of society that falls into the categories of Christian Conservatives, or those adhering to the general precepts of Christianity in a fundamentalist form, and Traditionalist Conservatives who view government as the problem to society, not a solution to social ills. These two groups are having the largest shake-out at this time as the Christian Social Conservatives are making a play for big government ideals and taxation while the Traditionalist Conservatives are finding they cannot support those views and are walking elsewhere this election. The peace made between these groups in the late 1970's has held for decades, but the candidate choices are rending the Christian Conservatives from the Traditionalist Conservatives. These splits may be the ones that determine the course of the Republican Party as the Traditionalist Conservatives are, literally, threatening to walk out of the Party. Here is the schism going on:

  • Social Policy - Christian Conservatives are pressing not only for a SoCon policy, but one that shifts beyond the accords made at the founding, such as separation of Church and State so as to have a Westphalian Nation that abides by that greatest of all Peace Treaties. Traditionalist Conservatives, adhering to values of hearth and home and keeping government *out* want nothing to do with Christian SoCons seeking big government backing for social policy. By putting forward and solidly backing a pro-interventionist, pro-big government candidate, Christian SoCons are walking out on the Traditionalists.
  • Fiscal Policy - As with Social Policy, the Fiscal Policy of the Christian SoCons is now one that, to Traditionalists, is indistinguishable from Liberal ones. While there is some commonality with FiCons, the Traditionalists do not support expansive trade regimes without some societal backing and evidence that the message of liberty gets through via trade. To date the FiCons cannot show that, and their backing of non-national groups offends Traditionalists. Christian SoCons do seek some common cause with the SecCons, as their fiscal views on spending, although not on programmatics, tend to run together. If SecCons move towards a more Christian Conservative view, but keep the expansive taxing and spending systems so that military provisions are made, there can be some accord here, although SecCons have not had much to do with Christian SoCons due to larger problems of selling policy Nationally.
  • Security Policy - Here there is some accord to SecCons, but there are limits that Traditionalists see on the use of force by the Nation. Traditionalists do not hew to an expansionist military policy and prefer policing and ensuring that few wars are had and that they are completed. Christian SoCons also see the need for few wars, due to matters of faith, but for protection of home via policing, this is only done in social enforcement venues. Of the splits over immigration, that of Christian SoCons and Traditionalist SoCons is the greatest as the Christians view those coming in as potential converts while the Traditionalists see them as not only law breakers but general scofflaws. This basic accord that had been going on here to generally look for a 'solution' has come to nothing for two decades.

This group, by being in a schismatic mode is splitting along Fiscal and Security lines with the Christians, by and large, ending up on the Liberal end of Fiscal and Security issues and the Traditionalists ending up in the Conservative end of Security and Fiscal issues.

What is fascinating is that the SoCon schism is now putting an earthquake through the SecCons and FiCons as a basic and fundamental rift is opening inside the Republican Party. From 2006-2007 the drive by SecCons and FiCons to actually get an amnesty going has so offended the Traditionalist values of law and order, that this ideal is now coalescing an admixture not seen before in the Republican Party and it, currently, has no representative as the party itself is in flux. Each of the major candidates, at this point in time, represent these factions, but are now caught in the seismic upheaval first felt as an earthquake and soon to produce a rift.

Decades of being in government and even having control of the White House and both Houses of Congress for *years* and then coming up with policy anathema to the law and order Traditionalists are sending the basic message out: What good is this party if it will NOT KEEP ITS WORD?

The SecCons, FiCons and Christian SoCons are hemming and hawing, trying to say that its about candidates. The fissures are not candidate driven solely, and these candidates represent the problems that Conservatives have had nearly 30 years to work out, and have not done so. The topping on it to the Traditionalists is the huge current size of government, expansionist social programs, lax border security and not enforcing the laws of the land. The Traditionalists understand the need for wars to punish enemies, but then seek to expand liberty thereafter not by making those enemies dependant but by teaching them how to be free. The Traditionalists have seen the other parts of the Party mouth these concepts for nearly a generation and the few tax 'reductions' and the limiting of welfare are their only scanty leavings as the government has continued to expand and erode society.

What has been interesting to see is that the Traditionalist SoCons have made some inroads into the FiCons and SecCons, even getting the message across to a number of Christian SoCons that placing the values of charity and forgiveness at home and *not* in the government is essential to society. That bit of work done for these decades has gotten stronger purchase even as the candidates, in Incumbistanian tradition, have remained the same. The Traditionalists may be seen as fed up with Incumbistan and its backers.

To get a 'unity candidate' the actual factions must unify around something, and the Traditionalist voters are not seeing that their support of the Party has gotten them anything save more and bigger government trying to do 'good' which, to them, means doing only a few things 'well' and leaving the rest up to the People. As that has not happened for 30 years, it is unlikely to happen *now* as each faction has become entrenched in its views. The other factions should worry a bit, however, as the Traditionalists are the faction of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Paine. They formed a Nation and their followers aim to *keep it*. Thrusting them out of the Republican Party may very well spell the end of two-party politics in America.

And the start of something wholly different.


Tom Grey said...

Splitting the Social Conservatives into Christian and Traditional is an excellent and important distinction.

You might well have added that pro-life big gov't folk, often Dem, have been pushed out of the Dem Party into the Big Tent Reps. And it is the pro-life big gov't voters that have been making Reps win, when they've won over Dems.

This dynamic won't end until Roe is overturned, and abortion is again a state law issue with differences between states.

(see my 3-d analysis of 2004)

A Jacksonian said...

Tom - My thanks!

How the R party is treating the Traditionalist Social Conservatives (who have a Traditionalist, non-isolationist view of liberty) is almost exactly the same way the D party treated Jacksonians in the '60-70's. That resulted in continued lower turnout for elections both Congressional and Presidential. And when you look at the differential change of 20%+ over that period, you get an idea of what the D party *wrote off*. The R party is now putting the republic in the position of not having a majority of voters interested in the Presidential race (that happened for Congress a couple of decades back). The Lincoln - T. Roosevelt traditionalists will be deciding if the party of Lincoln is *still* his party or not... just as the Jacksonians made that decision for the party of *Jackson*.

There are some minor differences between the Traditionalists and Jacksonians, but those hew towards the differences of Pioneering and Settling... there have always been friction between the 'rough 'n ready outdoorsman' and the 'settler in hostile land': but they always came together for self-protection. Otherwise the common accords on the limited size, scope and influence of government are the same. And Liberty is seen as the basis for the Nation and its accountability done equally, evenly without respect to social standing is one that resonates deeply in America.

I advocate a new frontier of space for America and removing government from doing *anything* save offering prizes to stimulate industry. We need explorers, builders and settlers who understand that a rough 'n ready life with good reward to a better future is worth living for... worth dying for. And as these ideas underpin many areas of life, that dream from our founding, re-stated, will gain adherants... at the expense of the other two parties now going Left. The clarion call to a new frontier and Liberty *always* gains those looking for freedom, the outcasts of other societies and those just wanting to risk their lives for a future to be built.

And Traditionalists and Jacksonians both know the best government is small, local and accountable. Get this government's nose out of my life, its fingers out of my wallet and rules out of my bedroom... particularly the federal government. I can *handle* the State and Local ones well enough...

I have no one to vote for in this election, so it is popcorn time. And then see if there are enough who see this vision of a new future of American pioneering to actually start coming together and bringing these two parties to heel.

Anonymous said...

I come from a family of long line Republicans, and I don't recognize this party today. I don't remember so much emphasis on the religious right, nor "conservative values" that run counter to the needs of our society. Only 1 out of 5 registered republicans even match the template discussed in the media. Which leaves a huge number of voters out there who cannot be measured. I, for one, do not want a bible thumping religionista trying to re-tune the Supreme Court on some minority's behalf. Nor do I want tax cuts for people considerably wealthier than me (yeah it's true) while pumping ineffective government agencies full of money they cannot responsibly spend. The NeoCons are a failure, as history will show.

A Jacksonian said...

Gozmo - Growing up as I did and coming to realize my political views having not grown up with that understanding, puts me outside the party structure as the Party of Jackson is no longer that party, being hijacked by anti-americans and socialists/communists/progressivists by the late 1960's. Both parties were caught up in that early 20th century Progressivism, that tried to put 'progressive taxation' and other social controls so as to try and stave off Socialism. I don't blame those that did so, and even T. Roosevelt came to realize by 1912 what a monster he had helped to bring into the government.

When the People were convinced to allow government direct taxation of income, something the founders had specifically (and with emphasis) denied federal government, something was bound to go wrong. The Progressivists used that to change taxation to be a punitive thing, instead of one equally distributed so that all took an equal share or their States mediated so that the worst would not fall on the poorest. Federal government at the National level is the worst decider on that as the country *is* diverse. Allotment as it was clearly devised to be taxed equally and given to the States to collect *worked* if the States took their responsibilities seriously.

We the People removed the checks and balances to keep federal government in check and small... that was seen as 'Progressive' and part of the 'wave of the future', instead of being the absolute problem seen at the founding. From the unfortunate beginnings under T. Roosevelt and Taft, the expansion then went full throttle under Wilson, who paved the way for FDR.

Rolling government *back* and getting the checks back in place was a huge task... in theory Ronald Reagan had committed himself and his party to that, until the siren song of all the 'good' federal government could do and his failings due to physical problems prevented work being done on it. He did cement the Jacksonians final stepping away from the Democratic Party, but the Republicans never 'sealed the deal' by actually starting the dismantling project of getting government cut down to size. The public funds and largesse now hold the apparatchiks in Congress in sway, save for a very, very few stalwarts trying to keep things under control.

The fight, as Reagan pointed out, must be for Congress, not the Presidency. If Congress can be reigned in to start the project of defunding and abolishing parts of government and helping to move Amendments through to repeal direct taxation, then things will slowly change for the better. American charity not only is larger than the government's budget for similar programs, but better utilized and targeted. Given the charity that we have as a People, we can use those funds better than the federal government ever will to support the poor, homeless and mentally dysfunctional. Charity cures those ills, government cements them in place due to budget and jobs attached to them.

The Traditionalist Republicans added a phrase to the Republican lexicon but it does not apply solely to the SCOTUS: 'Strict Constructionalist'. Those Republicans want it applied to the President, Congress and the entire federal government. So it will be as it was constructed and not one inch more.

Having heard the warnings of the founding generation, will we heed them now that they come true?

Liberty and democracy depend on us now... and if we fail we have failed that trust handed down from the founding to us.