SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

August 19, 2013

Shribman: Pragmatic vs. ideological

CHATHAM, N.H. — The Baldface Brook Trail runs through here. The Chandler Gorge Trail runs through here. The Slippery Brook Trail runs through here. The campaign trail to the White House runs through here.

On the surface right now, in our glorious, sunny midsummer passage, not much politically is running through New Hampshire. The other day former Gov. Mitt Romney spoke to a Republican fundraiser in Wolfeboro, on Lake Winnipesaukee. The event was more a matter of celebrity than significance. A few days from now, Sen. Ted Cruz will be the big guest at Knollwood Farm in Dublin (population 1,597) in the southwestern part of the state. That’s an occasion of a different meaning.

The visit of Cruz is far more significant than might seem on the surface. The Texas Republican is one of the leading dispensers of a strong brew of tea in Washington, a popular figure on the right, renowned for his refusal to cut his views to the fashions of the capital establishment. Born in Canada, he may be ineligible for the presidency, much to the regret of his most ardent admirers. But his outlook — specifically his conviction that Republicans prevail in presidential contests only when they nominate candidates who lean discernibly to the right rather than flop around in the middle — is at the center of the most important struggle in American politics today.

Since the end of World War II, a group of political scientists and some commentators have argued that the Republican Party is composed of two sub-parties, a presidential party and a congressional party. This theory, often identified with David B. Truman, a Columbia professor who became the last male president of Mount Holyoke College, holds that the political figures who predominate in GOP presidential campaigns are different from those who pursue their efforts mainly on Capitol Hill — and that there is an inherent struggle between them.

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