“Wait,” you say, “that’s not how it lines up!”
Actually, it is.
Give all six of these conservatives a test on key issues –life, taxes, defense spending, Second Amendment etc– and they will agree on nine out of ten issues. They will score very close to each other on all the national scorecards.
The great divide is twofold:
Whose favor do they seek?
And what tactics will they employ to reach their ends?
Stipulate that all are good men, as are most of their supporters and contributors.
But the first is the combative caucus and the latter is the compromise caucus.
The first values the productive effects of sharp conflicts transparently transmitted to the larger audience of interested voters. The second favors the closed door meeting, and various gangs of various sizes.
The former seeks out input and tests out ideas with people not in their inner circle. The latter are all inner circle.
And, not surprisingly, Christie-Cruz-Rubio people are great on their feet and charismatic in person, capable of bringing a crowd to a roaring, stamping sustained-applause creating cheer. The McCain-Graham-Corker people, well, not so much. If ever.
Parties are big sprawling affairs, and necessarily contain all sorts of positions and, crucially, all sorts of temperaments.
The two things they cannot contain is condescension and ingratitude.
Condescension towards the folks who put you there and to the colleagues who support you if only 70% of the time is deadly to politicians.
Even worse, though, is ingratitude.
I like to quote Disraeli, as quoted by Lord Blake in the epic biography of the most renowned conservative of the 19th century.
Disraeli was angry at a party official –First Lord of the Admiralty Sir John Pakington– who would not appoint two other good conservatives to key posts under his control.
“It is not becoming in any Minister to decry party who has risen by party,” Disraeli upbraided Pakington. “We should always remember that if we were not partisans we should not be Ministers.”
There’s a lot of ingratitude running through D.C. today, especially among elected members of both houses, who are feeling quite free to attack their leadership and colleagues.
Fine to attack principles and tactics, strategies and ideas.
Not fine to slam fellow GOPers, not in the middle of a hugely important wrestling match with a Democratic Party which for all its many fissures, manages to keep a pretend face of unity on their internal divisions.
Now commentators don’t get paid not to sling arrows. That is our job. Far be it from me to tell another talk show host not to trash Cruz or to lambast Graham.
But don’t expect a lot of radio love from me if you are an elected GOP –made at least in part with GOP money and GOP volunteers and even GOP line-drawing in redistricting at some point in your political life– and your day begins with slagging a Republican and ends the same way.
John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are the suspension bridges between the two groups of GOPers separated mostly by temperament, and both have done a good job in the past month. Those efforts may be a smoldering heap by day’s or week’s end, but if that is the case, it won’t be because of anything Ted Cruz said in the past fortnight.
No, the slag that has been thrown has come from one side, some of it anonymous, some of it public. Memories are long in the party of elephants. If and when the House shoots down the Senate’s compromise, watch for the senators who blast the House conservatives. There will be the short-timers, the last-termers.
It is one thing to disagree, a wholly other thing to knife your fellow Republican on the way out the door.