Jonah Goldberg

And that is why the Republicans are going to start turning on each other like drag queens at a wig sale. It's the nature of politics that when you're out of power, everyone can agree on what the top priority should be: Get back in power. But, the only way to get back in power is to attract people who might not share all of your goals or your passion. Majority coalitions by definition have diverse groups within them. FDR's coalition had everybody from Klansmen to blacks, socialists to industrialists. The new GOP coalition isn't nearly so exotic, but it does have its internal contradictions.

We've had a preview of them in the Delaware primary fight between O'Donnell and Rep. Michael Castle. O'Donnell partisans hold that squishy inside-the-Beltway RINOs (Republicans in name only) refused to rally to a right-wing stalwart. O'Donnell's conservative critics insist that they are no less sincere in their principles; they simply thought O'Donnell was a risky choice compared with the comparative sure bet the GOP had in Castle to take Joe Biden's seat.

The details of that family spat will no doubt soon be forgotten, but the relevance won't. The populist vs. establishment storyline is going to come back with a vengeance, particularly given the crowded field of potential GOP presidential contenders. Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee won't be the only ones writing off criticism from Karl Rove or George Will as "inside the Beltway elitism" (nor will they always be wrong when they do).

More important than the intraconservative fights is the fact that the moderates, independents, women and young people fleeing the Obama coalition to make up a new Republican majority aren't much interested in lending their numerical and political weight to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's agenda to make Obama a "one-term president." Much like the Tea Partiers, they would like to see the GOP accomplish something substantive over the next two years. The arguing begins the second the GOP starts acting on that substance.

Whatever the final numbers, this midterm election isn't a vote of confidence in the Republicans; it's a second chance for them. The GOP brand remains deeply tarnished among both lifelong conservatives, Tea Party firebrands as well as swing-voting independents. That consensus is the one thing unifying the Republicans -- that, and Barack Obama.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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