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Opinion

February 11, 2013

Shribman: The war inside the GOP

(Continued)

In each case, seats regarded as safely Republican or competitive were lost by candidates with colorful backgrounds or incendiary rhetoric, particularly about abortion, which itself is not a top tea party priority.

But that does not tell what Paul Harvey — a hardy conservative who is enjoying a bit of a posthumous comeback after his appearance in a pro-farmer Super Bowl advertisement for Dodge — would call the rest of the story.

Because Mr. Bozell isn’t wrong when he makes this point: “If we had listened to them,” he said in reference to Rove and his allies, “there would be no Pat Toomey, no Marco Rubio, no Mike Lee, no Rand Paul and no Ted Cruz in the Senate today,” adding: “In every case the moderates said they too were ‘unelectable.’ It’s these same Rockefeller Republicans who said Ronald Reagan was unelectable. Instead of lectures, these moderates should stand aside and let the conservative movement lead the party back to prominence.”

(Aside to readers: Anybody seen a Rockefeller Republican since, say, Charles Goodell of New York, appointed to the Senate by Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller amid the tumult of 1968 and defeated by William F. Buckley’s brother in 1970? Indeed, Rockefeller himself wasn’t a Rockefeller Republican when he left public life as vice president in 1977.)

And so the Republicans are falling into the very trap the conservatives’ favorite conservative, Winston Churchill, warned of when he said in his famous “finest hour” speech in 1940: “If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”

The future for Republicans may be determined by ideology — how best to fight the transfers of wealth, spending and expanded rights they believe are part of a dangerous but ascendant Democratic creed. But there is no question it also will be shaped by demography.

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