Understanding the Real and Unreal Aspects of the “Republican Civil War”

I often use my weekly TPMCafe column to pull together strands of stuff I’ve thought about in the course of news-cycle-blogging over days and weeks. That’s the case today when I wrote a brisk essay on things the commentariat–and particularly progressives–may be misunderstanding about the whole congressional Republican “civil war” we’ve all been reading about.

On the one hand, Boehner’s resignation didn’t really resolve anything in the Republican establishment’s battle with conservative insurgents over the strategy and tactics that should be deployed with respect to a host of right-wing causes, most notably the Planned Parenthood “defunding” crusade. So all the rose petals being strewn across the Florida-bound path of John Boehner are a grossly overstated reflection of what he has actually accomplished, not to mention a grossly overstated suggestion of what he has given up, which is pretty much nothing once you understand how quickly he’s going to become a Super-Lobbyist. There’s no reason whatsoever to assume the government shutdown threat avoided this week will not reemerge, perhaps even more strongly, in December.

But on the other hand, we must remember that the “civil war” is indeed about strategy and tactics to be pursued so long as Barack Obama is in the White House rather than principles, goals and policies. That means if Republicans win the White House and hang onto Congress in 2016, the civil war will go away as GOPers of every stripe joyfully cooperate to defund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare, override executive orders on the environment and immigration, enact another big top-heavy tax cut, engorge the Pentagon, etc. etc. Progressives should be under no illusion that “moderates” in the congressional GOP will save us from a thoroughgoing conservative policy revolution.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.