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January 06, 2014 5:10 PM This Doesn’t Mean “War”

By Ed Kilgore

At the risk of becoming a crank about this, I must again today object to the term “civil war” for the internecine conflict within the Republican Party. I laid out my reasons for this at some length in a TPMCafe column late last year, suggesting it’s important to understand that fights over strategy, tactics and cosmetics are not the same thing as “struggles for the soul” of this or any other political party. But here we are today with the much-esteemed Democratic pundit and operative Donna Brazile penning a CNN column entitled: “Who wins in the GOP civil war?” And it’s not a conceit of some CNN headliner, either, since Brazile uses the “civil war” term three times in the body of the piece, and in general makes it sound like a fight to the death between diametrically opposed forces.

But it’s not, of course. In actual “civil wars,” the combatants are happy to bring in foreign forces to tilt the balance, and the winners generally impose very tough terms—up to and including liquidation—on the losers. Karl Rove is not about to endorse any Democrat against any Tea Party challenger who beats any Rove client, and in fact the GOP “Establishment” will instantly embrace the GOP nominee in almost every case (the very limited exception of Todd Akin in 2012 was attributable to the “Establishment’s” erroneous belief they could force Akin to resign from the ticket, clearing the way for someone more suitable).

Yes, I know Democrats enjoy watching Republicans fight, and yes, hyperbole is the coin of the realm of political punditry. But it’s kinda important for progressives to understand what’s actually happening in the two major parties, and for all the conflict now and then, there’s no “civil war” going on in either of them.

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.

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