Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Factionalism in the national Republican Party and Similarities with the Republican Party of Texas

In late October, Michael Tomasky wrote the following about the factions in the Republican Party and the purported civil war between those factions:
The more I think about this Republican “civil war,” the less it looks like war to me. It often gives the appearance of being war because these Tea Party people march into the arena with a lot of fire, brimstone, and kindred pyrotechnics that suggest conflict. But what, really, in hard policy terms, are these two sides arguing about? Practically nothing. It’s a disagreement chiefly over tactics and intensity. That’s a crucial point, and so much of the media don’t understand it. But I’m here to tell you, whenever you read an article that makes a lot of hay about this “war” and then goes on to describe the Republican factions as “moderate” and “conservative,” turn the page or click away. You are either in the hands of an idiot or someone intentionally misleading you.

I beg to differ. There appear to me to be several areas on which the Establishment Republicans differ with the Tea Party Republicans. My conclusions are the result of reading two papers co-authored by Ronald Rapoport: Rapoport, Dost, Lovell, and Stone, “Republican Factionalism and Tea Party Activists,” and Rapoport, Dost, and Stone, “The Tea Party, Republican Factionalism and the 2012 Election.”

First, the Tea Party Republicans are different from non-Tea Party Republicans in terms of issues, priorities, and political style.

Percentage Taking Most Conservative Position on Issues (CCES)
Top Priority Issues (CCES)
The three charts demonstrate that Tea Party Republicans are more conservative than non-Tea Party Republicans, that their issue priorities are different from non-Tea Party Republicans, and that their willingness to compromise is much less than non-Tea Party Republicans.
Ideologically, Tea Party Republicans are different from non-Tea Party Republicans as the following chart demonstrates:

Rapoport, Dost, and Stone conclude:
Our analysis points to a party divided, but one with a Tea Party majority among rank and file identifiers.  Approval of the Tea Party, although down from its high point (of 29 percent), has remained stable over the past year and, is still as high, or higher than that of the Republican Party.  Under these circumstances attempts by established leaders of the Republican Party to shed or tame the Tea Party are unlikely to succeed.
Instead, the chasm in issue positions and priorities presage continued conflict, particularly as the party moves towards 2016. The bitter factional conflict over the government shutdown, the debt limit, and the budget all present serious difficulties for a party trying to gain power, particularly when, for a significant part of the party ideological purity trumps electability. [Emphasis added]

Interestingly, this same conflict within the Republican Party of Texas existed for many years until the more ideologically conservative faction won control and began electing their members to public office in Texas. The conflict exists, but it is muted by the electoral success of the ideologically motivated Texas Republicans in winning office. To understand the conflict, compare the moderate positions of George W. Bush as governor of Texas with the more ideologically motivated positions of Rick Perry, who succeeded Bush when he resigned in 2000 after winning the presidential election. Purportedly, Bush and Perry are not close, based largely on Perry’s comment that Bush was not a real conservative.

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