It seems Republicans up in Congress have split into two hostile tribes – whether you call them ‘Moderates and Conservatives’ (as they did forty years ago) or the ‘Conservatives and Pragmatists’ (as they did twenty years ago) or ‘Insiders and Outsiders’ (as they do now).
Now, say, on spending, the Conservatives (or Outsiders) are dead-set certain we’d all be a lot better off with a lot less government. It’s an article of faith. To Conservatives Less Spending = Less Government = Good Things Happening.
More to the point, they figure if voters don’t agree, say, with shuttering the Department of Education, it’s their job to go to work and show ‘em that sending billions to Washington for schools then turning around and sending it back to the states isn’t the best idea on earth.
And they’re willing to risk their political hides to do it.
The Insiders (or Pragmatists) don’t really have any philosophical aversion to cutting spending or government. But they also figure Republicans aren’t going to be doing much good in Washington if they lose their majority in the House – so they don’t see much virtue in risking their political hides for an unpopular spending cut, even if they agree with it.
It’s as old a political fight as I know of in Republican politics: One group of fellows says, Let’s do what’s right and damn the torpedoes. It’ll all come out right in the end – and the other group takes one look at the torpedoes and says, Hold on.