Congressional leaders and state-level elected officials. Tea Party networks. Neocons, Theocons, and Reformicons (I’ll explain). Fox News and the rest of the conservative news-entertainment complex. Upscale libertarian voters. Downscale white working class voters. Southerners. Westerners. Big corporations and rich donors. The Republican National Committee and other formal party groups. “Shadow party” organizations controlled by the Koch brothers and other super-wealthy donors. Ted Cruz. Jeb Bush. Scott Walker. Rush Limbaugh. John Boehner (just kidding).
You get the idea. How can we possibly understand who’s in charge of the Republican Party? Political scientists have spent decades studying how American political parties function and they still disagree (academic paper, pdf) about how decisions get made. In a way, it’s an especially bad time to ask who’s running the GOP, since it’s had no president for six years, 25+ potential 2016 nominees, and a congressional leadership that cannot even control their caucus, much less anything larger.
Still, the 2014 election gave the Republican Party a lot of power, about as much as a party get without holding the presidency. The GOP controls Congress and more than one-half of all state governments. They have vast amounts of money, their own news media, and they are united ideologically (mostly). I think it’s a great time to debate who is setting the Party’s agenda and priorities.
I am not particularly well-versed on the polysci of how our parties operate, and ‘m having trouble finding good links on the subject. Still, I am working on it and on Monday I’ll open with a few remarks on the subject that I hope will help us to understand how different actors influence what the GOP stands for. Then, we can discuss whatever.
Note: I feel that some of our meetings have been a little unfocused lately. So, I’m going to try a little harder to keep us on topic this time. The topic is who runs the GOP and how that may be changing, not what do we think of conservative ideology. I’m going to crack down on people giving long history lessons and personal anecdotes, too.
Note II: A lot of links, but not much yet on the (1) polysci or (2) conservative POV.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- HOW: What does it mean to “run” or “control” a major American political party? How is that attempted and accomplished (e.g., via organizing, activism, money, promoting popular ideas, control of the news media, etc.)?
- WHO: What are the major factions in the Republican Party these days? On what do they agree and disagree?
- WHICH: Which faction has the most influence? Why? Are any major disagreements unresolved or finessed?
- TODAY: So, what does the Republican Party stand for? Has that changed recently? Was it because of new forces, or just the waxing and waning of old factions?
- TOMORROW: Will the factional balance of power within change? How? How will losing or winning the 2016 election contribute?
- How do conservative and liberal answers to these questions differ? Can we learn anything from the other side’s answers?
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
Who controls the GOP?
- Nobody. It’s anarchy out there. Recommended
- Wrong. There is no GOP civil war, except over tactics and messaging. The Party is united on substance. Recommended.
- Yes, there is too a GOP civil war, and not just over tactics. (Conservative POV)
- The voters are in charge. But, they do not believe in compromise on anything!
Which faction dominates?
- The Tea Party:
- The Christian Right:
- Big Biz – One ring to rule them all?
Which Individuals Matter Most?
- Paul Ryan is the most powerful Republican.
- Scott Walker is David’s early bet to be 2016 presidential nominee.
- The “reformicon” intellectuals are trying to moderate the GOP from the inside. But, they are failing. Recommended.
Next Week: What can science tell us about Good and Evil?