The row started, oddly enough, with a single email. Which got answered. And counter answered. Then, boom, there was a full scale war of emails going on (with me watching copies flying back and forth) that lasted two days.
At first I thought my two friends were arguing over who to support in the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate – but then it struck me what they were really arguing over was two different wars – and which war was more important.
Friend #1 figured the war that matters is whipping Obama while Friend #2 figured before whipping Obama the Tea Party had to, first, whip the Pachyderm Republicans in Washington who keep making deals with Obama.
Now, make no mistake: Friend #1 doesn’t like deals with Obama. And he wants to cut spending too. But not bad enough to shut down the government and risk losing the next election.
Friend #2’s view is simpler. To him all that spending is wrong. Period. Just like adultery or bank robbery is wrong. And he’s not about to go along with adultery just to win an election. He’s also a bit like Davy Crockett standing on the wall at the Alamo – he figures he’s dead right and doesn’t mind taking on a whole army to prove it.
In a way this whole argument’s the return of a very old fight I saw the first time back in the mid-1970s when we were trying to elect Ronald Reagan.
Back then, in all of Washington, we could only find two Republican Senators who’d endorse Reagan for President. Two. That was it. The rest of Republican Washington lined up behind Gerald Ford. So, in a way, the Tea Party – which, with Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, has three Senators – is way ahead of where we were then.
Also, back then, everybody from liberal Democrats to mainstream Republicans let fly saying Reagan was too radical and too uncompromising and too unbending and if he ran he’d sink the Republican Party. And, in a way, that was partly right: He did run. And didn’t win. And Gerald Ford did lose to Jimmy Carter in 1976. But, then, it turned out we weren’t in the Alamo at all. Four years later, Reagan ran again and started winning elections faster than General Sherman tore through Georgia.
Who knows if history will repeat itself with a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, but the Tea Party is a legitimate political movement – its ideas are popular within the Republican Party. And it may have to whip the Washington Republicans first.