Paul Jacob

Is the Republican Party bent on defining itself out of existence?

Recent squabbles between the neoconservative Old Guard (Chris Christie, Peter King) and the scions (political as well as biological) of Ron Paul suggest this.

The Republican Party exists as an alliance of several distinct ideological groups: social conservatives, libertarianish fiscal conservatives, and the neocons.

The neoconservative movement, the most successful ideological force for big government within the party — as expressed not only in military power overseas but also in terms of enthusiasm for the War on Drugs and a general indifference towards spending growth and debt — has dominated the party’s presidential candidate selections for some time, especially with the back room maneuvering for John McCain and Mitt Romney.

But Americans repudiated the GOP largely because of the failures of the neocon wing during the Bush years (remember that two Nixon operatives, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, almost defined the Bush Administration, and were themselves almost defining of the neocon-in-politics). And the spectacular lack of success of the McCain and the Romney presidential runs has shown the lack of resonance that Americans feel with neocon policies and personalities.

Repeated thwackings at the polls are enough to give any power-obsessed group palpitations. And now with the rise in popularity and respect of Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Ted Cruz and other limited government crusaders, actual pain is being expressed, no mere fluttering of valves.

The recent bout of invective began with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He famously expressed alarm at the Rand Paul wing who he thinks undermines national security; he ominously conjured up the images of the two towers falling on 9/11/2001 to bolster his position on a strong defense. The fact that his statements did not in any way defend any specific foreign policy position, or deal directly with any criticism of neoconservative policy, somehow did not make the news. What made the news was the “insider” fight, whether the Republican Party should be a big tent or small one.

The next week, Representative Peter King (R-NY) stated that “someone like Rand Paul has set the Republican Party back 50 years.” King confessed to a hankering for a 2016 run at the Top Banana Spot. He says, to win.

But, if I’ve guessed the tides of opinion right, he’ll run to lose . . . and perhaps set the GOP back much further than 50 years.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.