A mass political party: Conservative Ronald Reagan, centrist Gerald Ford and liberal Nelson Rockefeller after a real intra-party battle in 1976.
Sorry, I don't buy it. Pretending that there is a titanic battle for "the soul of the party" between the "tea party" and the "establishment" provides much material for 24/7 media, which must always be fed. But there is little real disagreement. Where there is, it shows how the lunatic fringe that was once kept in the closet is now part of the GOP mainstream.
The Republicans, like the Democrats, was once a mass political party. That's the way politics have long been structured in these United States. We didn't have the plethora of parties that made up the polity of many European countries during much of the 20th century.
This conferred advantages. With conservative, liberal and "moderate" wings, each party could scoop up the maximum amount of voters and co-opt the emergence of third parties. Thus, for example, the liberal Democratic Party of FDR was also the home of Southern segregationists until Lyndon Johnson championed civil rights.
Circa 1970, the GOP was home to liberals (Jacob Javits, John Lindsay, Nelson Rockefeller); conservatives (Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole) and those in between (Howard Baker, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, who funded the Great Society and presided over the creation of the EPA among many other "liberal" actions).
The party always had its reactionary wing, something especially ginned up by FDR's victories. But so did the Democrats. Republicans were generally more friendly to big business, but 1924 Democratic presidential nominee John W. Davis was only one example of his party's "business friendly" segment. Democratic statesman Averell Harriman was the son of a railroad baron and had wide business interests himself.
Theodore Roosevelt was the "trust buster" and the finest conservationist president, one of the titans of the Progressive era and without the racism that tainted Democratic Progressive Woodrow Wilson. Herbert Hoover was a TR Progressive and a thorn in the side of flinty Calvin Coolidge — until he was broken and embittered by the Depression. In the mid-1960s, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act would not have been passed without Republican support.
Up until 1960, most African-Americans voted Republican. Daddy King was a Nixon man in 1960, reflecting the then vice president's good record on civil rights. Tragically, Nixon would implement the "Southern Strategy" in 1968 to attract whites deserting the Democrats over civil rights, a template that has been followed since.
Now, Nixon, Goldwater and Reagan couldn't win a Republican school-board primary. The revolutionary spawn of Goldwater took over the party in 1992 with Newt Gingrich and have been weeding out RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) ever since. The John Birchers, Christian Coalition, libertarian nuts, single-issue conservatives and hardcore reactionaries that Reagan manipulated with such skill are now the "mainstream" of a no-longer-mass party.
The media dwell on this fight between the establishment and the tea party. But where are the differences on key issues?
All are anti-abortion absolutists, even further to the right than candidate George W. Bush. Indeed, many would outlaw most forms of birth control. Behind this is an often explicit message that the only worthwhile women are bearing children in a Beaver Cleaver family.
All are against Obamacare, even though this was the conservative alternative to universal health care, a plan that originated in the Heritage Foundation and was implemented in Massachusetts by wealthy Republican Willard Milton "Mitt" Romney. They have no real alternative.
All are for tax cuts, always. Taxes must never rise.
All are climate change "deniers."
All operate on the playbook that "government is the problem" and "I'm for small government." At the same time, they favor massive subsidies and government intervention for business, big agriculture, fossil fuels, banks, sprawl, etc. They love privatization, including schools and prisons, and often personally profit from it.
All talk about the sanctity of state rights and local control. Unless the state or locality happens to be blue — then they want control moved up to the highest level of government controlled by them (hence the damage done to Phoenix by the Arizona Legislature).
All are soldiers in the Cold Civil War. They use white America's economic ills and fears — in reality caused by policies they supported — to blame "the other," whether they be people of color, gays or city dwellers. This heinous group of socialists and takers are the source of your ills. They are not the Real America. It has proven very profitable at the polls. What's the Matter With Kansas...and most states.
All are anti-intellectual and anti-science.
With the exception of a few outliers, all are in favor of the neocon project of military intervention virtually everywhere, seeking monsters, picking fights. Somebody tweeted, "McCain calls for US troops to quell crisis at the @NYTimes." This is the modern Republican Party, which learned nothing from the debacles of Afghanistan and Iraq — except that Kenyan in the White House didn't double down enough. They are oblivious to the cost to the real economy, without whose strength we can't maintain a world police force.
All are for "economic freedom," protecting monopolies, cartels, big companies, the dynastic rich, the banksters. They would to various degrees either abolish regulation or defang it completely.
All hate poor people, even the white Republicans who are poor people. They think we still have welfare and a bunch of n*ggers are on it, thanks to Obama. The undeniable evidence that we are in a new Gilded Age of inequality — that's liberal propaganda. They are the most likely to want to abolish "entitlements," the happiest to saddle young people with onerous student loans. They will not engage on the real reasons for the middle-class implosion. In their universe, it is because of government, taxes, regulation and n*ggers.
So tell me where the Grand Old Party has real divisions, much less reality-based debate that would be healthy?
To paraphrase George Wallace, "There's not a dime's worth of difference" between them. The Kooks are the establishment.