Divisions within political parties have always existed, despite everyone’s reluctance to admit it. Still, party leaders like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) remain inflexible when the ideological cohesion of their parties is called into question. These responses are born out of political necessity, as party divisions have led to disastrous political outcomes for legislative coalitions in the past.
In an interview with Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, Hoover Institution Senior Fellow and conservative commentator Victor Davis Hanson chose to speak on the context behind the shifting tides within the GOP. Hanson pointed to his departure from the National Review, one of the conservative movements’ most beloved news organizations, as an example of ideological divisions splitting up the modern conservative movement. He said:
“Because there were certain issues that would pop up occasionally, and I could predict what the answer would be, like the Covington kids … I just sensed that before we knew anything people [contributors at National Review] would come and condemn them.”
Is Tone Policing Doing More Harm Than Good?
Primarily, most public disagreements about the future of the Republican Party pertain to the role Donald Trump will play in it. Even future Republican presidential hopefuls like Nikki Haley, who had contributed to various hit pieces on President Trump, recently mentioned wanting the former president’s blessing before launching her own political campaign in the future. In the past, many Republicans had portrayed themselves as the adults in the room when it came to politics. Former GOP nominees like Mitt Romney and John McCain represented themselves as dignified elder statesmen who rejected Barack Obama’s personable, attention-grabbing image, which ultimately contributed to his massive success on social media and the campaign trail.
Since Trump departed from office, more Republicans willing to fight for what they believe in have risen to prominence. Even the most controversial legislators like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who many accuse of contributing to the spread of hoaxes and elaborate conspiracy theories, continue to remain popular in certain voter circles within the party due to their consistent visions for the country. When past Republican presidential candidates were accused of being racist or misogynist, they simply sat back and maintained their composure by claiming the moral high ground. However, when it came to Donald Trump, Republicans began to see how empowering it felt to strike back against Democrat talking points, even if it wasn’t always the politically wise thing to do.
Hanson’s interview this week shed light on just how conflicted Republicans are regarding party divisions. Compassionate conservativism, intellectual conservatism, social conservatism, and fiscal conservatism are just a handful of the different kinds of conservative thought that remain in conflict with one another. According to Hanson himself, ideological consistency might not mean much when you already have a winning strategy. For the esteemed commentator, that strategy was to simply back Donald Trump up as much as possible. He explained:
“There were certain people in the Republican movement or establishment who felt that it’s their own duty to police their own and that’s kind of a virtue signal to the left … A lot of them felt it was their duty as Republican establishmentarians to tell the world they didn’t approve of Trump and his crudity … But it’s good for the middle class.”
It’s hard to argue with Victor Davis Hanson about the winning strategy for the Republican Party leading up to the 2020 presidential election. Presidential success is heavily influenced by the economic progress made by the administration, regardless of whether the exercise of executive power had anything to do with that progress in the first place. Trump oversaw spectacular economic gains in combination with record-low unemployment, and his political coalition consisted of a widespread of working class, middle class, and upper-class Americans. Ultimately, the focus on tone policing within conservative circles may do more harm than good if we continue to use ideological purity tests to test a future candidate’s political viability in the future.
~ Read more from Jose Backer.