A House Divided Against Itself Will Not Stand

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A House Divided Against Itself Will Not Stand

In the Holy Bible and in the New Tes­ta­ment, Jesus Christ made the fol­low­ing state­ment to his crit­ics who lev­eled a charge against both His lead­er­ship and author­ity: “A house divided against itself can­not stand” (Matthew 12.2228). Fur­ther­more, Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln quoted this same pas­sage of Sacred Scrip­ture dur­ing the height of the Civil War when he averred that “A house divided against itself can­not stand…”

There is no fam­ily, orga­ni­za­tion, nor any busi­ness or non-​profit entity that can long exist if it is frac­tured from within.

As one observes the cur­rent affairs of the Repub­li­can Party, one could eas­ily come to the con­clu­sion that the Repub­li­can Party - the Grand Old Party (GOP) for short – is in a hope­less state of dis­ar­ray. Polit­i­cal pun­dits and schol­ars ask them­selves the ques­tion: Who speaks for the GOP? Is it the busi­ness com­mu­nity? Is it the main­stream GOP lead­er­ship which is located in both the Sen­ate and in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives? Could it be that the “Tea Party” and their pro­po­nents are the authen­tic voice of the Repub­li­can Party?

This writer heard Nicole Wal­lace – for­mer Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Chief for Pres­i­dent George W. Bush – pro­claim that when­ever the GOP needs to reju­ve­nate itself, that it has his­tor­i­cally looked to the ranks of their stand­ing Repub­li­can Party Gov­er­nors for future direc­tion and growth (Bobby Jin­dal? Chris Christie? Scott Walker?). Per­haps in time Ms. Wallace’s obser­va­tion will prove to be cor­rect. Nev­er­the­less, the ques­tion still remains: Is there any­one who can give an accu­rate pulse on the cur­rent state and polit­i­cal future of the GOP?

While this writer does not claim to pos­sess any clair­voy­ant pow­ers, he does believe that per­haps a his­tor­i­cal look at the Repub­li­can Party may shine some light on its cur­rent dilemma.

Let us go back in time roughly 100 years and then move forward.

First and fore­most, the Repub­li­can Party – unlike its pro­gres­sive party coun­ter­part – has always existed in a state of con­tin­ual “flux” and “dis­unity.” Most Con­ser­v­a­tives of both the fis­cal and lib­er­tar­ian gar­den vari­ety types have gen­er­ally iden­ti­fied with the GOP as opposed to the egal­i­tar­ian /​pro­gres­sive vision of the Demo­c­ra­tic Party.

Back in 1912, the Repub­li­can Party was fresh off hav­ing won 5 of the pre­vi­ous 6 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions since 1888. The incum­bent Pres­i­dent in 1912 was Howard Taft ® and he was imme­di­ately pre­ceded by for­mer Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt ®. Unfor­tu­nately for Pres­i­dent. Taft, Theodore Roo­sevelt missed the cen­ter stage of the Pres­i­dency and sought to wres­tle the White House away from him. Mr. Roosevelt’s coup attempt was rebuffed and with his fail­ure to secure the Repub­li­can Party’s nom­i­na­tion in 1912 he sought des­per­ate polit­i­cal mea­sures. He ran for Pres­i­dent as a polit­i­cal inde­pen­dent of the newly formed “Bull Moose Party.”

Mr. Roo­sevelt won more votes than Mr. Taft, but the can­di­da­cies of both men enabled an obscure Demo­c­ra­tic Gov­er­nor from New Jer­sey named Woodrow Wil­son to barely squeak by with enough elec­toral votes to win the Pres­i­dency in 1912. (The Repub­li­can Party recov­ered and recap­tured the Pres­i­dency in the ensu­ing elec­tions of 1920 (War­ren G. Hard­ing); 1924 (Calvin Coolidge) and 1928 (Her­bert Hoover).

Turn the page and fast for­ward to 1964.

The Repub­li­can Party found them­selves embroiled in another state of dis­unity. This time the two GOP fac­tions at war were the South­west­ern con­ser­v­a­tives led by Ari­zona Sen­a­tor Barry Gold­wa­ter and the east­ern estab­lish­ment wing led by Gov­er­nors Nel­son Rock­e­feller of New York and William “Bill” Scran­ton of Penn­syl­va­nia. The east­ern estab­lish­ment saw Sen­a­tor Gold­wa­ter and his con­ser­v­a­tive insur­gency as being polit­i­cal extrem­ists (sound famil­iar?) and ille­git­i­mate; when Sen­a­tor Gold­wa­ter won the party’s nom­i­na­tion, the “east­ern estab­lish­ment wing” refused to sup­port him in the gen­eral election.

In ret­ro­spect, Sen­a­tor Gold­wa­ter would most likely have lost any­way even if the GOP was totally united (it is a dubi­ous propo­si­tion to believe that the Amer­i­can peo­ple would have elected three Pres­i­dents in less than 4 years). The refusal of the main­stream wing of the Repub­li­can Party to endorse Sen­a­tor Gold­wa­ter and his con­ser­v­a­tive mates set off a series of events from bad blood, unfor­give­ness and hard feel­ings between the two fac­tions which exist to this very day.

Inter­est­ing enough, two years later in 1966, the con­ser­v­a­tives saw one of their own heroes become Gov­er­nor of Cal­i­for­nia (Ronald Rea­gan) and the main­stream estab­lish­ment arm of the Repub­li­can Party wit­nessed a young upcom­ing con­gress­man win a house seat in Texas (George H. W. Bush). These two men would bat­tle it out for the Repub­li­can Party’s nom­i­na­tion 14 years later in 1980.

Today, there is much dis­cus­sion regard­ing the “Tea Party Move­ment” and its rise and influ­ence within the Repub­li­can Party. Some have said that the “Tea Party Move­ment” is an extrem­ist bloc and unyield­ing. Oth­ers call the Tea Party expo­nents unrea­son­able and fear what their influ­ence in the broader body politic might mean for those who do not share their vision of lim­ited government.

How­ever, if his­tory is any indi­ca­tion, the Repub­li­can Party will sur­vive the insur­gent “Tea Party” as the move­ment itself will most likely morph into either a Lib­er­tar­ian or Socially Con­ser­v­a­tive block within the GOP.

The Tea Party appears to be infus­ing the GOP with new life — in a sim­i­lar vein that both the Bull Moose party and the South­west­ern Gold­wa­ter insur­gen­cies strength­ened the Repub­li­can party in years past.

Repub­li­cans have always fought one another and there is no rea­son to see the “Tea Party Move­ment” as some strange or new phe­nom­e­non to this long-​standing practice.

Update: DTG: High­lighted Bib­li­cal quote in Red because they were the direct words of Christ.

In the Holy Bible and in the New Testament, Jesus Christ made the following statement to his critics who leveled a charge against both His leadership and authority:  “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12.22-28).  Furthermore, President Abraham Lincoln quoted this same passage of Sacred Scripture during the height of the Civil War when he averred that “A house divided against itself cannot stand…”

There is no family, organization, nor any business or non-profit entity that can long exist if it is fractured from within.

As one observes the current affairs of the Republican Party, one could easily come to the conclusion that the Republican Party – the Grand Old Party (GOP) for short – is in a hopeless state of disarray.  Political pundits and scholars ask themselves the question:  Who speaks for the GOP?  Is it the business community? Is it the mainstream GOP leadership which is located in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives?   Could it be that the “Tea Party” and their proponents are the authentic voice of the Republican Party?

This writer heard Nicole Wallace – former Communications Chief for President George W. Bush – proclaim that whenever the GOP needs to rejuvenate itself, that it has historically looked to the ranks of their standing Republican Party Governors for future direction and growth (Bobby Jindal? Chris Christie?  Scott Walker?).   Perhaps in time Ms. Wallace’s observation will prove to be correct. Nevertheless, the question still remains:  Is there anyone who can give an accurate pulse on the current state and political future of the GOP?

While this writer does not claim to possess any clairvoyant powers, he does believe that perhaps a historical look at the Republican Party may shine some light on its current dilemma.

Let us go back in time roughly 100 years and then move forward.

First and foremost, the Republican Party – unlike its progressive  party counterpart – has always existed in a state of continual “flux” and “disunity.”  Most Conservatives of both the fiscal and libertarian garden variety types have generally identified with the GOP as opposed to the egalitarian / progressive vision of the Democratic Party.

Back in 1912, the Republican Party was fresh off having won 5 of the previous 6 Presidential elections since 1888.  The incumbent President in 1912 was Howard Taft (R) and he was immediately preceded by former President Theodore Roosevelt (R).  Unfortunately for President. Taft, Theodore Roosevelt missed the center stage of the Presidency and sought to wrestle the White House away from him.  Mr. Roosevelt’s coup attempt was rebuffed and with his failure to secure the Republican Party’s nomination in 1912 he sought desperate political measures.  He ran for President as a political independent of the newly formed “Bull Moose Party.”

Mr. Roosevelt won more votes than Mr. Taft, but the candidacies of both men enabled an obscure Democratic Governor from New Jersey named Woodrow Wilson to barely squeak by with enough electoral votes to win the Presidency in 1912.  (The Republican Party recovered and recaptured the Presidency in the ensuing elections of 1920 (Warren G. Harding); 1924 (Calvin Coolidge) and 1928 (Herbert Hoover).

Turn the page and fast forward to 1964.

The Republican Party found themselves embroiled in another state of disunity.  This time the two GOP factions at war were the Southwestern conservatives led by Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and the eastern establishment wing led by Governors Nelson Rockefeller of New York and William “Bill” Scranton of Pennsylvania.  The eastern establishment saw Senator Goldwater and his conservative insurgency as being political extremists (sound familiar?) and illegitimate; when Senator Goldwater won the party’s nomination, the “eastern establishment wing” refused to support him in the general election.

In retrospect, Senator Goldwater would most likely have lost anyway even if the GOP was totally united (it is a dubious proposition to believe that the American people would have elected three Presidents in less than 4 years).  The refusal of the mainstream wing of the Republican Party to endorse Senator Goldwater and his conservative mates set off a series of events from bad blood, unforgiveness and hard feelings between the two factions which exist to this very day.

Interesting enough, two years later in 1966, the conservatives saw one of their own heroes become Governor of California (Ronald Reagan) and the mainstream establishment arm of the Republican Party witnessed a young upcoming congressman win a house seat in Texas (George H. W. Bush).  These two men would battle it out for the Republican Party’s nomination 14 years later in 1980.

Today, there is much discussion regarding the “Tea Party Movement” and its rise and influence within the Republican Party.  Some have said that the “Tea Party Movement” is an extremist bloc and unyielding.  Others call the Tea Party exponents unreasonable and fear what their influence in the broader body politic might mean for those who do not share their vision of limited government.

However, if history is any indication, the Republican Party will survive the insurgent “Tea Party” as the movement itself will most likely morph into either a Libertarian  or Socially Conservative block within the GOP.

The Tea Party appears to be infusing the GOP with new life – in a similar vein that both the Bull Moose party and the Southwestern Goldwater insurgencies strengthened the Republican party in years past.

Republicans have always fought one another and there is no reason to see the “Tea Party Movement” as some strange or new phenomenon to this long-standing practice.

Update:   DTG:  Highlighted Biblical quote in Red because they were the direct words of Christ.