The rift between conservative factions within the Republican party and the struggles between them to define modern conservatism, are troubling many conservative political analysts as the nation heads into the coming midterm elections. With Tea Party activists calling for an abandonment of a GOP they see as weak and liberal, establishment Republicans doing everything they can to keep control of the party and a growing libertarian insurgence routinely butting heads with the more evangelical Christian right, things are not looking good for the party of Buckley, Goldwater and Reagan.
Though the often hyperbolic exchanges between Tea Party groups such as Teaparty.org and congressional Republicans such as Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan over things such a budget negotiations can lead one to the conclusion that such divisions are a truly new development, conservative writer Daniel McCarthy of The American Conservative suggests that such is more the culmination of long-standing ideological struggle to define conservatism in the modern context of government and society, than the sudden and eruptive battle it appears.
In his November essay entitled “Why The Tea Party Can’t Govern,” McCarthy examines the roots of American conservatism, going back through the 20th century to analyze and consider the events and factional desires which led to the evolution (to use the term very loosely) of modern right-wing extremism and the birth of The Tea Party.
Beginning by writing “something is seriously wrong with conservatism,” McCarthy offers a surprisingly honest evaluation of the conservative movement, asserting that since Ronald Reagan left office, the Republican party and conservative movement have been largely unable to secure serious political victories of any serious consequence. Claiming, as conservative defenders often do, that George W. Bush was not a conservative, he goes on to examine the history of factional development throughout the right, culminating in what he describes as the purely reactionary extremism movement that is the tea party.
Throughout the piece, McCarthy echoes sentiments more commonly heard expressed throughout the left, dissecting the rhetoric of such extremists throughout the Christian right and tea party and finding the ultimate flaw to both of them being a philosophically and theoretically based opposition to policies and political realities without anything resembling an actual plan or agenda remaining beyond the noise and posturing.
Indeed, should any terms be considered to be definitive of modern tea party conservatism, “short-sighted” and “reactionary” are about as on the ball as they get. However despite the measured tone and honest, if not slightly biased critique of the state of tea party conservatism, reaction from many conservative readers was naturally bombastic, with comment contributor “olog-hai” responding,
[box type=”shadow”]”I don’t think I’ve read a bigger attack on conservatism in my life, especially in a publication called “The American Conservative”. Never mind the baseless attacks on our Founding Fathers in the comments section. Slighting the Tea Party as “negative” is like calling the Founding Fathers “negative” towards George III.”[/box]
Clearly Olog has yet to read any AATTP columns, but regardless, it through such rancor and complete with the non-sequitur invocation of the “founding fathers,” that he and a number of other pro-tea party conservatives eloquently demonstrate that when it comes to tea party politics, its their way or the highway. Just be careful on the highway though, as they’ve recently cut funding to upkeep.