As the primaries (finally) approach, it is increasingly apparent that the real GOP battle is between the business wing and the social conservative wing of the party. Is the real showdown going to be over the future of the GOP?
After months of tedium and mindless chest-thumping, the race for the Republican presidential nomination finally got interesting over the last couple of weeks. And the way it did so highlights the fundamental rift threatening the future of the GOP: the divide between the party's corporate/anti-tax wing, which includes the people who write the checks, and its social conservative wing, which includes the people who get bodies to the polls. It's the plutocrats versus the theocrats, and at the moment it's hard to tell who's going to win.
After the last Republican debate, the press was giddy with talk of negativity. Smackdown! The claws come out! GOP candidates duke it out! You would have thought Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney doffed their shirts and engaged in a good old-fashioned bare-knuckle brawl, with teeth flying and blood dripping from swollen fists.
These are not good times for American workers. Real wages are lower today than they were before the recession of 2001, and barely higher than they were thirty-five years ago. Health insurance is more expensive and harder to obtain than ever before. Manufacturing jobs continue to move overseas. The unions whose efforts might arrest these trends continue to struggle under a sustained assault that began when Ronald Reagan fired striking air-traffic controllers in 1981, in effect declaring war on the labor movement.
To hear the press tell it, the best moment of last night's debate was when Mike Huckabee answered a question about whether Jesus would support the death penalty by saying, "Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office." Reporters were in awe. The Washington Postcalled it "the best line of the night.The Chicago Tribunesaid Huckabee hit the question "over the fence." It was the only quote from the debate Mara Liasson included in her NPR report.