Jim Tankersley of the National Journal is talking about the just concluded Iowa Caucus.
…what Republicans have on their hands now, and will likely have until the party rallies around a nominee to face President Obama, is another chapter in a longstanding struggle among ideological factions within their party—factions including social conservatives, libertarians, business leaders, and the GOP political establishment.
Perhaps the starkest divide came on the question of what caucus-goers were looking for most in a presidential candidate.
This is a typical misunderstanding of the dynamic. Rather than the Democratic Party’s demand that its members strictly accept the party line handed down by its leadership, conflicts among Republicans in their primaries constitute a microcosm of democracy in action. This is simply the open debate through which the party arrives at its position, for good or ill, with no fear of the public listening in. In fact, the eavesdropping is encouraged; it helps the public understand the positions developed. This is in sharp contrast to the Democrats’ philosophy of monolithic positions, against which disagreement is not allowed.
Of course it could be argued, without being too far wrong, that the Republicans depend too much on the publicness of their debates as their means of messaging, rather than, having arrived at a position, going to that same public and speaking to us directly and plainly.
The Progressives’ misunderstanding goes far further, though.
There’s no unifying characteristic of the economic proposals offered by Iowa’s top-finishing trio of Romney, Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul, other than their general conservatism; the three plans differ sharply on core economic issues, including how much to cut taxes, how deeply to slash the federal budget, and how to spur new investment in America.
And yet these plainly are “unifying characteristics:” cut corporate taxes, slash government spending, spur new investment. The differences among the candidates on these, as monolithic Democrats do not understand, are not yawning chasms, but minor quibbles around the edges. Moreover, this unifying message stands in sharp contrast to the Progressives’ unifying characteristics: raise taxes, spend even more, use subsidies to favored businesses for spurring “investment.”
Further, the Republicans have succeeded in changing the dynamic of the public discourse. There’s no more argument over the specific size of tax increases, or of spending increases (or fictitious reductions in future spending increases), or how large government should be. It’s about how much lower to reduce tax rates, how much to cut from actual spending, how small government should be.