Insurgent Republicans keep winning: Rick Scott defeated Bill McCollum yesterday in the Florida gubernatorial primary, James Lankford came out on top in Oklahoma's congressional runoff, and Joe Miller is edging out Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. Clearly, the Tea Party is as much a revolt against the allegedly insufficiently conservative Republican establishment as it is a revolt against Obama.This post builds off an earlier post where Lane says there has always been four parties patterened after our forebearers from the British Isles:
If the GOP takes the Senate -- admittedly still a big if, but increasingly thinkable -- I wonder how Mitch McConnell plans to control the likes of Miller, Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey. Wouldn't be at all surprised if they fuel a run for majority leader by Jim DeMint.
As the split between right and center-right accelerates within the Republicans, I expect an internal Democratic bloodletting if that party loses Congress, between the left and the center-left. How much longer can these two aging party structures contain the contradictory forces within them?
You might even say that the four parties I'm talking about correspond roughly to the four political cultures first identified by historian David Hackett Fischer in his classic book Albion's Seed. That book traced the main currents in American political ideology to the folkways and notions of liberty imported from four British regions that provided the population of early America.So is there going to be a crack up? On the one hand, I'm a little wary of a so-called "centrist caucus" forming, partly because...well, most talk of all things centrist tends to be just that...talk.
East Anglia gave us the Puritans of New England, with their emphasis -- "liberal," in today's terms -- on community virtue. The Quakers who settled the Delaware Valley established a society and politics built on problem-solving and compromise. Southern England gave us the Virginia cavaliers, founders of a conservative, aristocratic tradition. And the Scotch-Irish who settled the Appalachian backcountry produced a populist, anti-government, "don't tread on me" mentality.
Now, however, under the Internet-intensified pressure of recession, terrorism and global uncertainty, the four parties are breaking out of the two-party mold that had previously contained them. On the Democratic side, President Obama finds himself torn between progressives demanding an ideologically pure health-care program, among other agenda items, and a pragmatic wing desperately attempting to hold together 60 Senate votes by whatever means necessary. On the Republican side, it's unclear whether the party's right wing is angrier at Obama or at its own leadership. Certainly the fury of the Tea Party and similar groups threatens here and there to overwhelm more conventional conservatives (just ask Charlie Crist in Florida).
But I also think that in this age of the internet, where we tend to associate around like causes and beliefs, mass groups like our two large parties may no longer be relevant in today's world. I think one of the reasons people are looking at the GOP again after booting them out of power in 2006 and 2008 is that the Dems went a bit too far to the left in regards to the stimulus and health care reform. If the GOP makes big gains or even takes Congress in this fall, expect that they will feel the wrath of voters if they focus on investigations of the Obama Adminstration instead of the economy.
I think there is a big group of people in the middle that would like to see things done. Where I tend to disagree with the "centrist caucus" folks is that the center doesn't agree on everything or even how to get things done. While both parties have pragmatists, they are still tied to some ideology.
That said, it would be nice to see both the Dems and the GOP split up. That way we could have a more pragmatic conservative party ala the Conservatives in the UK and a pragmatic liberal party maybe more like the Liberal Democrats in the UK or the Free Democrats in Germany.
I'm all for more competition in the American political spehere.