The John McCain wing of the Republican party and the Rand Paul wing of the Republican party have been attacking each other over military policy and who is to blame for losing the presidential election. Now at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, the so-called establishment Republicans and the so-called tea-party Republicans ridiculed each other. Observers are seeing schism, if not civil war.
Interestingly, Mario Rubio and Jeb Bush are being described as “establishment” figures, though they used to be considered hard-core conservatives. So I suspect some of this Republican break-up talk is wishful thinking from Democrat-leaning pundits. But here is a prediction: Both the “pragmatic” professional politicians in the Republican party–the ones fixated on winning elections–AND the newly insurgent libertarian wing associated with Rand Paul will come together to advocate gay marriage. If this happens, where would that leave you (us) social conservatives?
From Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post:
You could be forgiven for thinking that there were two Republican parties on display over the last few days at the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington.
On one side was the “compromise equals surrender” crowd led by Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.) with an assist from Sarah Palin and her Big Gulp soda. On the other was what passes for the party establishment, represented by former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).
While closing CPAC’s three day event, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), made reference to Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) calling Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Cruz “wacko birds” after Paul’s 13-hour filibuster.
The two groups’ analysis of the current state of the Republican Party made it sound as though they were on two different planets. Cruz, who delivered the final speech of CPAC on Saturday night, insisted that “we’re winning right now.” Bush, who spoke 24 hours earlier, told attendees that “way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker.”
The divide apparent at CPAC has been reflected in Congress, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has struggled to lead a House conference strongly tinged with those who pledge fealty to the Paul/Cruz wing of the party. (See the political disaster known as “Plan B” during the “fiscal cliff” debate.) And Senate primaries shaping up in Iowa and Georgia also could demonstrate the party rift.
One recent episode typifies the split. Last week, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) referred to Cruz, Paul and Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) as “wacko birds.” In his CPAC speech, Cruz offered this retort: “If standing for liberty and standing for the Constitution means you’re a wacko bird, then count me a proud wacko bird. I think there are more than a few other wacko birds gathered here today.”
All of which begs a very simple question: Can the Republican Party be led?