The Status Quo as “Reality”
March 18, 2013
Below is a link to a column by Chris Cillizza, which asks if there is one Republican Party or two. Of course, the answer is that there is only one Republican Party or would be if the “wackos” would just face up to “reality” and be “led.”
“Historically, the GOP is a coalition of social, economic and national-security conservatives,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “That is unlikely to change. The Rubio/Bush faction of the Republican Party recognizes this reality. Many in the libertarian wing of the party do not.”
Well, perhaps, Rep. Cole has it right. But it is also possible that he doesn’t and that what “the libertarian wing of the party” wants is something other than “a coalition of social, economic, and national-security conservatives,” if such can accurately be labeled “conservatives.” That is, the “wackos,” as John McCain labeled them, are not out of touch with “reality.” Rather, they are merely trying to change the prevailing alignment of forces within the party.
“The question before Republicans is, can they keep the party together — or at least all pushing in a similar direction — heading into the 2014 midterm election so the battle for the soul and leadership mantle of the GOP can be fought out in the 2016 presidential primary process?”
Again, Cillizza may be correct but it could be that the question, as seen by the “insurgents,” is not whether “Republicans…can keep the party together,” but rather what the Republican Party will represent and, as a result, who will or should control that party. Cillizza writes from the perspective of maintaining the status quo, even though he doesn’t see it that way. In his mind, as in the mind of Rep. Cole or Jeb Bush, he is defending “reality.” And, of course, if you are opposed to this “reality,” then you are, willy nilly, a “wacko.”
What difference does it make, you ask? Well, consider this as a possibility. Where would someone like Chris Christie fall in this analysis? Is he a “realist” or a “wacko?” Perhaps he is neither. But that of course condemns him and his bona fides because anyone who fails to embrace the status quo understood as “reality” is a “wacko.” The point being that when the status quo is taken to be or mistaken for, as our political class wants it to be, “reality,” then the possibility of genuine political change is short-circuited.
So the battle being waged within the Republican Party is not over its “unity” or the possibility of “leadership” for the sake of unity. The battle within the Republican Party is the battle that should be occurring in the nation at large, that is, a battle over what kind of nation this will be. But of course with the likes of Cillizza “analyzing” our current situation, this battle will never be waged or, if it is waged, its outcome will be predictable and what is taken to be “reality” will prevail. And then we will wonder: “Gee, what doesn’t anything change?”
And this is what happens when the focus is primarily confined to winning elections. As Cillizza ends his column:
“The challenge for Republicans, put simply, is this: Can the GOP go from “wacko birds” to the White House in three years’ time? Not easily.”
So, if winning the White House is the goal, then the “wacko birds” must be grounded. And that I must say is correct. But think about it: What if in 1964 the then “wacko birds” had not nominated Goldwater, even though he went down to defeat in a landslide to LBJ? Of course, one reason many Republicans were willing to nominate Goldwater then was because they knew he would lose and lose big to Johnson. But what they did not know was that that “defeat,” like any defeat as opposed to a surrender, could be and would be undone in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.
While I am not a big fan of Reagan’s politics, I do recognize that he represented change and that change is necessary to the health of any political order. It is certainly necessary in a political order that seems to be in its death throes and that preservation of the status quo is little more than life support analogous to a morphine drip. The drip deals with the pain but it does not, because it cannot, change the outcome.