For the past several months there has been a controversy over whether to be a Republican one has to be conservative, and in the end just how conservative one must be. Even now, we haven’t decided the matter, based on the way people talk about the races in — to pick two states at random — Alaska and Delaware.
There are really just two kinds of Republicans. The problem is that there are lots of ways that there are just two kinds of Republicans. This list is not perfect, and I welcome anyone who wants to refine it or build a true taxonomy of the variables on which Republicans divide.
See if you can spot yourself, your friends, and your representatives in one or more of these categories.
Ideological and Sociological
Ideological Republicans are interested in politics because they want to advance ideas like liberty, the right to life, the right to keep and bear arms, etc. Note that no two people want to advance all of those ideas to the same degree.
Sociological Republicans are more interested in the proper function of society. The want law and order, the proper relationship between the institutions of society and the state, and a good martini at the club. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Social and Fiscal
The Republican Party was founded during the Abolition movement, and has found its voice in equal protection for all ever since. Some see the issues of illegal immigration and gay marriage in those terms. And abortion is the biggest social issue of all precisely because if we are human from conception then we deserve equal protection from conception.
But other Republicans, while perhaps holding strong personal views on social issues, believe the government should stay out of them. They are driven more by the issues of spending and taxation, economic and trade policy.
Conservative and Moderate
Conservative Republicans are interested in politics because they want some combination of sound policy for fiscal, social, and national defense issues. Note that this is different from wanting to advance a particular set of agenda items. Conservatives of this kind would rather not compromise their ideals for a temporary reprieve from the constant liberal demand for change.
Moderate Republicans are conservatives who value compromise as an ideal, or do not want to be seen as idealogues. So even though moderates often consider themselves conservative, and believe they are trying to advance the same ideals as their more conservative allies, moderates see a higher strategic value in giving up some of what they want rather than giving it all up. And they get invited to more parties.
Conservative and Conservative
This could fill a diary by itself, because each group believes they are the authentic ones. That is why Bob Bennett could claim to be a conservative and not want to repeal Barack Obama’s health control law.
Some conservative Republicans are actually libertarians who differ on major issues with the Libertarian Party, such as on abortion or national security. They agree with the libertarian understanding that government exists to defend the liberty of citizens and the fundamental position of property rights in that defense.
Status Quo conservatives, on the other hand, see conservatism as preservation. Never mind whether the current state of affairs is the best way to run the world, a status quo conservative demands a very high standard for changing anything, even or especially if it’s to go back to the way things were. After all, the change was probably made for a reason.
Outside and Inside
Cynically, one could say that the status quo Republicans wielding the levers of power are ideological bomb-throwers who succeeded, and now want to keep anyone else from doing the same. But that would be cynical.
Committed or Enslaved
If you’ve gotten this far, you deserve a happy ending, but I’m not going to give you one. Because in the end the only thing that matters this year is working with both kinds of Republicans, and even conservatives and moderates who are outside the party. If you know that they mostly vote our way, get them out to vote. The consequences are undesirable.
Did you spot yourself? If you’ve got a different breakdown, please comment.