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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Conservatives Crack the Whip

One of the most annoying aspects of the MSM’s false-equivalency habit in political commentary is the assumption that both major political parties have their “ideological purist” and “moderate” wings, which are of similar sizes and influence. It’s been obvious for a long, long time that the conservative movement has a hold on the GOP that cannot be remotely compared with any development among Democrats, and this disequilibrium has become if anything more apparent during the period of Republican decline over the last two election cycles.
I’ve already written at considerable length (most recently here and here) about the virtual unanimity in influential Republican circles that there’s nothing wrong with their party that a more rigorous conservatism–perhaps supplemented by use of new technologies and recruitment of a new generation of activists and candidates, but not new ideas–can’t solve. Sure, there are tactical disputes, and generational rivalries, and different loyalties to different conservative politicians, but nothing like real dissent, and thus nothing like real tolerance or openness to debate.
A good example is the call issued yesterday for a movement-conservative-sponsored debate among candidates for the RNC chairmanship battle, which two candidates eagerly accepted within hours, with the others sure to follow.
The original convener is, unsurpringly, the godfather of conservative litmus-testers, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. But he immediately reached out to the most active fellow-conservative critics of the Bush-era Conservative Establishment by saying: “We’re going to work with bloggers to develop the questions, and it will be open to CSPAN.”
Conservative warhorse Morton Blackwell of VA quickly chipped in with a suggested questionnaire that RNC chair candidates would have to fill out before participating in their public inquisition. Most of his questions seem to revolve around insuring that the RNC becomes completely sanitized of any sympathy for “non-conservative” opinions or candidates.
Imagine if you will what would happen if any self-styled left-progressive group made similar demands of candidates for the DNC chairmanship (and that’s hard to imagine, since such groups typically demand no more than a well-earned seat at the table, not total dominance). You can be sure that one or more of the candidates would spurn the instruction and run on a Big Tent platform, probably successfully. That couldn’t occur in today’s GOP.
The most interesting immediate objection I’ve read about Norquist’s call for a conservative-sanctioned debate was at the web page of hard-right Human Events magazine. A commenter named Mark said:

NO, it should NOT be televised. Not to the general public. Find a way to restrict viewing to registered Republicans only, and only THEN should it be televised.

Ah yes, that’s the spirit.

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