The establishment types label their opponents “purists”—the implication being that they are reasonable and realistic while the Tea Partier types are unreasonable and naïve. With one word, establishment apologists debase their rivals while elevating themselves. But it is actually establishment Republicans, not Tea Partiers, who are the true purists.
To an incalculable extent, the GOP’s foreign policy under President Bush II damaged the Republican brand. Poll after poll continues to show that the vast majority of Americans prefer, in the words of none other than presidential candidate Bush II, “a more humble foreign policy.” Still, such establishment figures as John McCain and Lindsay Graham continue to feed into the worst caricatures of the war mongering Republican. It is establishment Republicans who fuel the perception that they’re zealous purists, “extremists” and “one issue voters,” when they wax hysterical over just talk of reducing by a single red cent our tremendous defense budget.
Establishment Republicans are doubtless sincere when they claim to desire intraparty unity and, thus, apresidential candidate in 2016 that can bring this about. However, the only “unity” for which establishment Republicans will settle is unity on their terms.
In practice what this means is that any candidate like, say, a Senator Rand Paul, who exhibits anything less than unadulterated enthusiasm for the foreign policy agenda for which Republicans have, to their great detriment, become known, will most definitely not receive support by the GOP machine. Beyond this, much like Paul the Elder, they will be branded an “isolationist” and subjected to every conceivable smear.
When establishment Republicans acquiesce in the left’s agenda and Tea Party types complain, the reply with which they are invariably met is something like: “Remember, Republicans control only ‘one-half’ of ‘one-third’ of the government.” The tone is clear: these pesky, naïve purists just can’t grasp political reality! Well, maybe it is high time that establishment Republicans be forced to face a counter-reply.
Tea Partiers should remind the establishment that during past election cycles none of the candidates who they’ve catapulted to office ever instructed them on the nit and grit of the political realities on which they are now being lectured. Furthermore, Tea Party voters should insist now, before the next election cycle, that every Republican running for office repeatedly caution voters against entertaining unrealistically high expectations, for regardless of what happens this November, a Democratic president promises to remain in the White House for at least the next two years.
Intra-party unity there will never be. Intra-party clarity, however, is less unattainable.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at email@example.com or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.