This week, there are pats on the head for Ted Cruz and Mike Lee as the pundits and their GOP establishment colleagues give them condescending “attaboys” for their courageous (but misguided) attempt to make the government listen to the American people. They’re not all that bright after all, the pundits imply. Not experienced in the entrenched ways of Washington. They need to learn their place — to stay in the shadows until they’ve been in Washington for a dozen or so years and have been inculcated with the proper D.C. values. Observe the masters like John McCain and Mitch McConnell and, in time, perhaps they too can be like the Great Bipartisan Sages of the Senate. The strategists all warn that the Republicans must have a unified message. “Can’t we all just get along?” they ask.
The problem is that you can’t have a unified message when you have two creatures living in one body — either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde must ultimately prevail. At the end of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jekyll, who can no longer stop himself from turning into the evil Hyde, writes in a letter, ”I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.” Is it also time to bring the unhappy life of the Democrat-lite GOP to an end?
Michael Gerson, in his post-mortem of the shutdown debacle, made it clear that he thinks one side of the GOP is sane and reasonable and the other is completely off the rails. The establishment wing of the party, according to Gerson, “believes in building a legislative majority and electing a president to overturn it.” It’s all very civil and collegial. And it involves a lot of waiting around “for the next election” as the consultants and lobbyists line their pockets and the left continues its long, steady march across the Constitution and our individual liberties.
On the dark side, we have the conservatives. Gerson says,
[T]ea party leaders inhabit an alternative political reality — sheltered in safe districts or states, applauded by conservative media, incited (or threatened) by advocacy groups, carried along by a deep current of anger and frustration among activists — they have no incentive to view defeat as defeat. In fact, turning against tactical radicalism would involve serious political risk. So every setback is interpreted as a need for greater purity and commitment.
This is the same old “clinging to their God, guns and religion” tripe we heard from Obama, only cloaked in a stuffy D.C. political analysis, but it shows the divide between the Washington ruling elites and those who believe that not everything can be solved in Washington — that the entrenched ways of Washington are actually the problem.
Michael Bauman recalled this week a pivotal moment in John McCain’s presidential campaign, when he was ahead in the polls and left the campaign trial to rush back to Washington to deal with a financial crisis. Bauman writes:
But just like his Democratic opponents, when things got bad, McCain turned to government and returned to Washington. He could never convince the American voters that Washington is the problem because he didn’t believe it himself. He believed Washington is the solution. He still does. So does the Republican leadership in the Senate and the RNC. Do not expect him or them to beat the Democrats. They share the Democrats’ ideology and solutions. The difference between them and the Democrats is one of degree, not of kind.