Political Animal


May 03, 2013 1:01 PM Strategy and Ideology

By Ed Kilgore

There’s a pretty big and continuing gap between those outside the GOP who think its intramural problems are attributable to a deeply ideological struggle and those who think it’s mostly a strategic debate among ideologues. The former camp describes almost every argument as between extremists who believe all these crazy things about “socialism” and baby-killing and the “real” Constitution, and “pragmatists” who are pretty much like the reasonable bourgeois conservatives of yore—think Gerald Ford or Howard Baker—who just want to restrain the excesses of the welfare state and win elections. The latter camp, which I inhabit, acknowledges serious differences in preferred strategy and tactics among Republicans, but believes the whole push of them (with a few exceptions) represent the conquest of the GOP by a radicalized conservative movement that shares an ideology pretty far out of the historical mainstream.

It’s a pretty important analytical distinction that obviously colors how you interpret daily political events, particularly for those who are forced constantly to recast yesterday’s “extremists” (e.g., Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Marco Rubio) as today’s “pragmatists.”

But hey, if you don’t believe a liberal like me, here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strasser in a tirade against Ted Cruz’s contemptuous dismissal of less fire-breathing conservatives as “squishes” (in the context of Cruz’s gun filibuster and his House counterparts’ objection to Cantor’s “high-risk pool” gambit):

These days, the squishes apparently include groups like Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks, which supported the pre-existing conditions bill. They include rock-ribbed conservatives like Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, who did not join the gun filibuster threat—issued before the bill was written. “I’ve done more filibusters than Rand Paul is old,” said Mr. Coburn at the time—adding that his rule is to first read what he’s filibustering.
These groups are sincere in their belief that only by standing on principle can the party draw a sharp distinction with Mr. Obama. Yet it is, after all, possible to be both principled and … smart! It is principled to allow a congressional debate on guns (what is the GOP afraid of?), and smart to let Democrats own their gun failure. It is principled to chip away at ObamaCare, and smart to force Democrats to help do it….
The real debate within the GOP right now is whether battles might not be better won with canny flanking maneuvers. Bear that in mind next time someone hollers “squish.”

I will indeed.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • martin on May 03, 2013 1:12 PM:

    Sen. Tom Coburn... “I’ve done more filibusters than Rand Paul is old,” said Mr. Coburn at the time—adding that his rule is to first read what he’s filibustering.

    Part 1: That's nothing to be proud of.
    Part 2: Liar

  • c u n d gulag on May 03, 2013 1:34 PM:

    I'm trying to come up with something to call Ted Cruz, but I'm not doing too well.

    I've come up, "Atti-Ted" Cruz.

    I like this one better - "TedTalks' 'n Talks 'n Talks" Cruz.

    I've also thought of "Teed-off Ted" Cruz, or, "Teed" Cruz, but sometimes it's reasonable to be teed-off - and that boy ain't got a reasonable bone in his body.

    And finally, "Tedious Ted" - but though I find him extremely tedious, I'm sure he's a hero to the 27% of Authoritarian sociopathic @$$holes, and they find him anything, but.

    Anyone mmore clever than me have any ideas?

  • mudwall jackson on May 03, 2013 2:05 PM:

    hell, flanking is for sissies! real men like cretaceous teddy cruz charge directly into the machine guns! better to die what they believe is an honorable death than to be seen shifting ever so slightly to the left in order to take their objective.

  • Peter C on May 03, 2013 2:10 PM:


    My favorite is 'Carnival Cruz', at least while people can still imagine the smell of the disastrous 'poop cruise'.

  • c u n d gulag on May 03, 2013 3:17 PM:

    Peter C,
    Yeah, I'd heard that one. And it's pretty good!

    But I was hoping for something better.

  • Honeyboy Wilson on May 03, 2013 4:30 PM:

    I was going to suggest "Calgary Cruz", but I really like Peter C's "Carnival Cruz".