The Week has a three-point list of divisions the Republican Party is currently squabbling over:
1. Libertarians vs. social conservatives
These two GOP strains have never gotten along with each other. One group says government should stay out of people’s personal lives while the other tries to impose its own morality on others.
2. Right wing populists vs. the pro-business crowd
Despite campaign rhetoric, pro-business Republicans are usually just fine with government subsidies, liberal immigration policies, and bailouts — as long as they help keep the profits flowing. But the populist strain in the party sees big business as no better than big government.
3. Deficit reduction hawks vs. small government activists
Though it would seem these two groups have a lot in common, real deficit hawks recognize we must raise taxes along with cutting spending to get the country out from under the debt burden. But the small government fanatics are against all tax increases for any reason.
Republicans have been able to paper over their differences for decades, mainly by uniting the party against the common enemy of “big government.” But when the GOP controlled all branches of government during the Bush years, they actually did nothing to shrink government. It just got larger, helping to exacerbate the tensions between the various factions.
Of course, the real story isn’t GOP factions fighting over these issues, but that libertarians have filled their ranks and converted minds since the the Ron Paul revolution began in earnest back in 2007. Libertarians are flanking GOP statists from all sides and enthusiastically showing the errors and results of the Republican establishment’s deviations from their core principles.
After all, it hasn’t been mainstream Republicans spearheading a Federal Reserve audit, corporate entitlement cuts (opposing bailouts) and ending foreign entanglements, but it’s something that even John Boehner can no longer ignore. The fights that once belonged to libertarians, until the Tea Party movement began forcing those issues into the mainstream, are not something party leaders are willing to come to terms with, but they will.
Now, the Tea Party brand has obviously crested and is being re-enveloped by the indefatigable libertarian brand. In its wake is a generation of liberty activists who have grown up and come of age having failed to see the Republican revolution of the 90s keep its promises. These libertarians now threaten to either: topple the Republican establishment from within towards limited government principles; Further implode it into a powerless vacuum of dissent and antipathy.
This isn’t fracturing, it’s a war of transformation back to small-government principles, and libertarians are riding a tsunami of discontent all the way to victory.