The Republicans are at war, and chanting the tired Reagan mantra. But they’re at war with each other, and this may have huge consequences on conservative cohesion. Some background:
A study in Psychological Science, commented on by Marina Koren in The Difference Between Republican and Democratic Brains, shows that while liberals think their beliefs are different from those of their liberal peers even though they are often the same, conservatives think that other conservatives agreed with them more than they actually do. In other words, they think that being conservative means the same thing to all who describe themselves so, even though they differ significantly.
As the Pew Research Reports indicates, and numerous commentators have written on, the percentage of conservatives believing in evolution has decreased from 54% to 43% in just the past 4 years.
Conservatives unite because they think they all agree; they tend to all agree because they think that these beliefs must be what is means to be a conservative. Disbelief in evolution is becoming a marker for being a conservative, so belief among them for evolution is dropping. Pew also defines “staunch conservatives,” those who take conservative positions on nearly all issues, including “the size and role of government, on economics, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns,” as noted by Charles M. Blow in Indoctrinating Religious Warriors. Blow further notes that Republican party leaders play on these convictions to shore up support for the party, and I would add even when the leaders themselves hold more nuanced views of these issues.
But if Jeffrey Lord is correct or has his way, this might all be coming apart. In his recent article in the American Spectator, Karl Rove And The GOP Socialists, Lord admits that the Republicans are at war with each other. In this we have the beginning of a recognition that not all conservatives agree with each other. Were this notion to spread among conservatives, it would cause rifts in their supposed unity.
Lord further undermines one significant source of this unity by taking the mantle of Ronald Reagan for the non-establishment wing of the Republican Party, and declaring that Ronald Reagan would not align with those “establishment, statist” Republicans. A fight over which wing of the Republican Party owns Ronald Reagan cannot be good for unity. “Conservative” will no longer mean the same thing among those who describe themselves as one, and this will have consequences on the false unity which they think they have with each other.
Another reflection on Lord’s article leaves me wondering about the ability of the conservative movement and the Republican party to remain relevant in today’s world without some radical transformation. Ronald Reagan ceased to be president 26 years ago. As much as liberals and Democrats worshipped FDR, I don’t believe that in 1971, 26 years after he was no longer president, that Democrats invoked his name with quite the same fervor that conservatives do when invoking Reagan. Conservatives seem to recognize that nothing that has happened in their sphere in the past 26 years is at all worthwhile, and that speaks volumes for the relevance of their movement.