March 25, 2005

A Republican Crackup?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Instapundit initiated a discussion about a potentially looming “Conservative crackup”. Initally, conservatives are not impressed (scroll-up to follow the discussion). The discussion is suffering from a bit of mis-labeling. The Instapundit post begins by asking “Is the Republican coalition about to splinter?”. If you talk are talking about Republicans, you have to consider more than just conservatives.

Roughly speaking, the Republican coalition is made up of 3 groups,
1. Conservatives, in many different shapes and sizes.
2. The old-money country club set, who aren’t really sure why they are Republicans, but just are. (A certain junior senator from Rhode Island fits into this category).
3. Risk-averse business manager types. Think of Bush 41’s Secretary of State James A Baker as the archetype.

The old-money is fading in importance. In the past, they had two things on their side, money and organization. However, the conservatives are taking over the organization, it is likely that new political funding mechanisms will make their money less important, they can’t turn out voters, and other than by having more kids, they cannot produce more of themselves.

This third group is the key. At his MSN blog, Glenn Reynolds mentions Jack Kemp acting on behalf Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. That takes the discussion beyond the scope of conservatism-only. When Kemp lobbies on behalf of a dictator, he is acting as a managerialist, not a conservative.

As Jonah Goldberg pointed out in a corner post a while back, corporate managerialism may have done more to advance a collectivist agenda than direct government action has. This may be the most striking contradiction in the Republican coalition; I don’t think I am overstating things if I say that American conservatism considers resisting the idea of collectivism to be its original, and still very relevant, motivation.

If two (admittedly big) ifs are satisfied:
1. If the Dems become less willing to be by led adolescent petulance on a number of issues, like national security and the environment (managerialists will be not satisfied in a coalition that places too many limits on what they can use for political horse trading) …
2. …and if labor unions and managerialists figure out a way to work together (perhaps the bigger of the two ifs)…
…it is not impossible that the risk-averse business class could switch to the Democrats in a substantial political realignment.