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Wyatt Durrette: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Dragging out the tattered 11th Republican commandment that Republicans ought not speak ill of one another, and that, in a party build upon factions, not everyone is going to have their way, one-time GOP gubernatorial candidate Wyatt Durrette pleads for comity:

If Republicans do not learn to live comfortably again with the inevitable effect of a two party system and accept its coalitions and inherent diversity (indeed be grateful for them!), electoral success will continue to be elusive.

If a sustainable majority existed for the agenda of any segment of the GOP coalition, that segment would not need the others. But it doesn’t.

Political parties cannot operate by playground rules, where any part of the coalition “takes their ball and goes home.” Adult supervision is critical and the fragile coalition must be maintained through the ebb and flow of party battles, winning some and losing some.

It’s a fair cop: the GOP, like the Democrats, is a collection of interests all of which believe they hold the keys to victory. Ebb and flow, plus a number of sharp elbows, are par for the course.

But I think the Honorable Gentleman protests too much (not to mention applying a rather unique classification system to the various factions).

The reason the factions are at each others throats right now are many — defeat brings them to the surface, and a steady erosion of core principles — or even a coherent articulation of what those principles actually might be — only make the spats more vicious.

Rather than tap-down these disagreements, I find them to be useful. They provide clarity on a number of topics — not the least of which is to unmask those who prefer power over principle.

As for Reagan’s 11th Commandment – let’s set the record straight. From William Safire’s “Political Dictionary,” we find this bit of mythbusting:

When Dr. Gaylord E. Parkinson, a San Diego pediatrician, became California State Republican Chairman, he inherited a party that had been torn apart with internecine warfare every two years. Just before the contest between actor Ronald Reagan and San Francisco Mayor George Christopher for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1966, Parkinson laid down the rule that he named the Eleventh Commandment. Reagan, who had most to lose in a bitter battle and whose strategy was to “unify the party behind a candidate who can win,” accepted the rule with alacrity; Christopher followed along and never really raised the “inexperience” issue against the actor.

And then a little more light, this time from Lou Cannon’s biography, “Governor Reagan”:

[Parkinson's] motive for promulgating it was not to help Reagan but to unify his divided party by silencing leftover recriminations from the 1964 Goldwater-Rockefeller campaign.

The result was that Christopher was unable to attack Reagan’s inexperience — but what really healed the GOP breech was a vicious smear campaign run by Democratic Gov. Paul Brown’s henchmen against Christopher.

Wounds and slights are forgotten when the other side goes overboard.

And as for Reagan’s pick of Schweiker in 1976 — that was a gimmick that failed. And recall then, that it was Reagan running against another Republican, Jerry Ford, for the presidential nomination. Eleventh commandment be damned.

(cross-posted at Tertium Quids)

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