Republican Revolution may have worked, but Republican Revolt Won't
Andrew Parks | Staff ColumnistBy Andrew Parks | 01/14/2015 10:54pm
When you pay close attention to politics, there are two people you’ll see Republicans like myself quote frequently: Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. These two former presidents are quoted both because of the significant influence they’ve had on our nation’s history, and because of the examples they set for future Republicans to follow in providing the kind of leadership this country needs as it faces new challenges.
Unfortunately, some of us have lost our way in that regard.
Perhaps the most famous thing President Lincoln ever said is that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” When he made that famous remark in 1858, Lincoln was referencing the growing conflict within the United States over the issue of slavery. In Lincoln’s opinion, a nation that was half-free and half-slave couldn’t continue to exist; the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions were too galvanized to give in, and one was simply going to have to beat the other.
History teaches us that Lincoln’s words were prophetic. One did eventually beat the other.
On a lighter note, one of President Reagan’s more famous quotes was his “11th commandment,” which simply states, “thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” This rule, coined during Reagan’s 1966 bid for California governor, stems from infighting during the Republican presidential primary of 1964, which featured harsh attacks by one wing of the party on eventual Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater – attacks so effective that they prevented the party from coalescing behind Goldwater during the general election, which many believe to be the largest contributing factor to Goldwater’s eventual loss.
To my fellow Republicans: Sound familiar?
By now, you’ve probably figured out where I’m going with this column. The message here is simple: We Republicans need to stop eating each other alive.
The 1964 primary should remind most of us of 2012. Barry Goldwater should remind us of Mitt Romney. But this issue isn’t confined to presidential primaries. Just last week, we saw intraparty conflict play out in the U.S. House of Representatives, where the race for Speaker was only a handful of votes away from being forced to the ultra-rare second ballot. This marked the largest rebellion by a party against its sitting speaker since, interestingly enough, the Civil War.
Why is the party experiencing this much conflict? Those perpetuating it will tell you that the party “isn’t conservative enough,” and that we have too many “Republicans in name only.” They say that “true conservatives” need to “take back the party.” My own Congressman, Randy Weber, echoed such rhetoric when he cast his vote for Rep. Louie Gohmert – or rather, against “RINO” Speaker John Boehner. At the individual level, you’ll often hear voters saying similar things about candidates. In fact, I remember many that I knew personally who simply didn’t vote in 2012 because they didn’t feel Mitt Romney was conservative enough.
The fact is, this conflict makes no sense. This “true conservative” rationale is, in truth, self-defeating. The Republicans who cast votes against Speaker Boehner last week claim they wanted to force a second vote to “show their strength” within the party. They failed, showing their numerical weakness within the House’s massive Republican majority. Those who stayed home in 2012 effectively said that they would rather hand an election to a candidate they agreed with about 10 percent of the time or less than vote for a candidate they agreed with 70 percent of the time or more.
You don’t need to be a Vulcan to figure out that isn’t very logical.
This factionalization must end. Exclusivity never works as a political strategy. You don’t win elections and get things done by kicking people out of the party over marginal differences of opinion, you do so by reaching out and bringing people in based on common ground.
It’s time we stop acting like children and start acting like Republicans again. If we don’t, we will tear this house apart.
Andrews Parks is a senior majoring in political science. His column runs biweekly.