Coming from two authoritative voices (Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru) at an organ that retains some prestige in movement conservative circles (National Review), yesterday’s declaration that the “civil war” in the GOP between the Establishment and the Tea Party is all but over ought to have some serious influence in media circles. Their line is that the two Republican factions are converging, with some Establishment pols (particularly in Senate races) showing themselves to be ideological warriors, and some Tea types backing electable and constructive candidates. They treat the two most recent events on the GOP primary trail, Eric Cantor’s loss in VA and the bizarre and perhaps still unresolved Senate runoff in MS, as aberrations and also cautionary tales of what happens when the “civil war” is allowed to get out of control by both sides. Meanwhile, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse–a former Bush administration official who learned the Tea Party song and dance–is held out as a beau ideal.
Having generally regarded the “civil war in the GOP” meme as contrived, I’m fine with taking Lowry’s and Ponnuru’s word that it’s largely over. The primary progenitors of the “war” tale were Republican operatives who thought the GOP needed demonstrably to repudiate the scary tea folk in order to etch-a-sketch itself as “moderate” in time for the 2016 presidential election, and MSM types who have been itching to put the whole Tea Party and Obama phenomena in the rear view mirror and get back to old-fashioned Beltway politics where movers and shakers usefully cut deals all day and then celebrate with their favorite lobbyists and reporters over drinks at The Monocle.
Truth is the resolution Lowry and Ponnuru see is in effect a victory for the Tea Party on ideology and rhetoric and for the Establishment on strategy and tactics, though battles over the latter will resume immediately after the midterm elections. I’m sure Ponnuru, at least, a major figure in the “Reform Conservative” junta, would be happy to offer this new “fusion” in the GOP some policy ideas that could serve as sort of intellectual fashion accessories for the otherwise power-and-money oriented Establishment types and tokens of civilization for the Tea Folk. But regardless of which faction is deemed up or down, the problems that have made a “party reform” movement necessary have hardly gone away.