In his column in the Washington Post Michael Gerson breaks down the sub-groups in the Republican Party:
On one side there are Rejectionist Conservatives, who come in a variety of forms. There are libertarians who view federal taxation, except to fund a few night-watchman roles, as theft. There are tea party activists who believe that any federal power must be specifically enumerated in the Constitution — and then interpret the Constitution as if it were the Articles of Confederation. And then there is Ron Paul, who seeks to overturn the Lincoln and Hamilton revolutions.
But Obama’s overreach has also produced another conservative reaction — a Reform Conservatism. The key figure here is Paul Ryan, the main author of two House Republican budgets. The movement’s intellectual headquarters is National Affairs, a journal of small but potent distribution. Its brain trust includes thinkers such as Yuval Levin, James Capretta and Peter Wehner.
Why do so many Democrats immediately attack the motives behind Republican proposals? Other than tribalism, oppositionist impulses, and too few recognize any debate strategy other than personal attack, I mean? I think it’s because they discern, correctly, that the real power in the Republican Party is in the hands of social conservatives, conspicuously absent from Mr. Gerson’s analysis.
In my view that was always inevitable. Social conservatives are highly motivated and willing to persist, get their hands dirty, and do the necessary organizational work. They prevail in the Republican Party for much the same reasons that public employees’ unions prevail in the Democratic Party.
Mr. Gerson’s Reform Conservatives play a role somewhat similar to the Rockefeller Republicans of forty years ago. They may appear prominent but they are unlikely ever to wield real, practical influence in the party. Whatever proposal the Reform Conservatives propose, however reasonable it may appear, it will inevitably be twisted in a socially conservative direction in the vise of political necessity.
Mr. Gerson’s column had another section I found interesting on which I plan to comment later today.