A Rip In Reagan’s Big Tent – Rifts in the GOP

In a two-party system, as the U.S. gratefully is, there must be a difference between the two major parties. The distinction seems to have eroded over the years as both parties have moved to the left. To those of us who ardently hold to the principles that this nation was founded upon, there is only one major party that at least has the temerity to articulate those ideals, whether it in fact practices them or not, and that is the Republican Party. Those of us who lament the downward slide of the country into statism, and toward eventual financial collapse, must decide whether we want to be part of the solution within the GOP, or continue to be part of the problem. Many who consider themselves to be “patriots” are part of the problem.

Many long-time Republicans are resistant to the efforts of the neophytes, or Tea Party idealists. They stand egocentrically on the ground that the Republican Party is “my” party,” and refuse to let the neophyte conservatives have a place at the table. They roll out by-law and rule changes that seek to centralize the “power” and authority of the party in the hands of a few, rather than expanding and democratizing it, and increasing participation. They attempt to demonize and denigrate the newcomers who, in my estimation, are the very embodiment of the same revolutionary spirit and convictions that founded our republic.

republican-tentOn the other hand, many of the newcomers attack the “old guard” with the same ferocity and animus they hold for those who are ideologically engaged in the process of fundamentally transforming the nation. Some of these Tea Partiers exacerbate the divide created by the egoism of the old guard and take this internal struggle to a level that, if taken to extremes, will fractiously render the GOP impotent, which would serve no one’s interest, except the other Party and the real enemies of freedom. They engage in strident in-your-face confrontational coercion of “ideological purity,” that only fans the flames of discord and apprehension of the establishment Republicans.

There is near universal acceptance within the GOP of the main tenets of the Tea Party movement which are: eliminate excessive taxes, eliminate the national debt, eliminate deficit spending, protect free markets, abide by the Constitution of the United States, promote civic responsibility, and reduce the overall size of government.

The only difference, other than tactical, I can find between the two factions is an understanding of compromise. The old guard has been around long enough to know that everything in politics and government is incremental, and that compromise is critical. They just need to learn to compromise in a way that takes us in the right direction, not the other way. The newcomers have the luxury of standing strictly on principle, and, having never governed, have not had the educational experience to realize that it’s impossible in governance to have things exactly how you want them all of the time. It is possible to compromise on specific legislation or statute without compromising on your principles. Ignorance of this fact will cripple the neo-conservatives unless they learn to adapt.

What is clear, is that the tactics of both factions are churlish, immature, and divisive. Both use labels to demonize and alienate the other, and engage in tactics that are characteristic of Saul Alinsky devotees, not members of the Party of Lincoln. To both sides I would reiterate the counsel of Paul, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Ronald Reagan’s goal was for the Republican Party to be a big tent; the bigger the better. I believe ardently that all who are at the eye of this intra-party storm are conservatives, believing in limited government, individual freedom, protection of life and private property, less government spending and less governmental intrusion and centralization of power. So why should it matter if we’re constitutional conservatives, Tea Party conservatives, libertarian conservatives, or old guard conservatives? As Reagan said, “He who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy.”

Bennett editorial cartoonIf the GOP is to succeed electorally, all factions and persons involved in the party schism must learn to work together. Only by working together can we begin to slow the abominable slide into leftist oblivion. The “old guard” and the Tea Partiers must realize that all brands of conservatives are essential spokes in the same wheel.

If the statists who’re fundamentally transforming the nation are to be defeated, then it will only come as a result of a “united we stand, but divided we fall” conviction. And if we’re not part of the solution to create such cohesiveness, we’re part of the problem of divisiveness and failure. Clearly, both factions are at fault, and both are diluting and dividing the positive electoral influence the GOP could be enjoying if they’d work together against the real enemies of the state, rather than those perceived internally to be.

When conservatives don’t get their way with the candidates of their choice, and choose to stay at home on election day, they get precisely what they despise the most: more centralized planning, more reckless spending, and more expansive intrusion of government in their private lives by handing the election to the opposition. In short, everything that is contrary to their convictions. It’s illogical, and frankly, just plain stupid to alienate and marginalize those who agree with you 90% of the time by treating them the same way as those who disagree 100% of the time. The best thing to do is vote in every election for the most conservative candidate. You are not “violating” your principles by so doing.

housedividedIt matters less what kind of conservative labels we wear in our personal ideology, than that all parties resolve to work together in defeating those whose beliefs are antithetical to our founding principles. If the newcomers are to inch the country back closer to our founding tenets, it’s going to come by nudging the Republican Party back to its conservative roots, not by a hostile takeover, or by splintering into separate, impotent parties. And if the establishment Republicans want to win elections, they’ve got to work with, not against, the Tea Party conservatives and begin harnessing their convictions and enthusiasm, and begin practicing better what they preach. And developing a backbone to stand up against the statists would go a long way toward developing some trust with the more conservative members.

A great starting point for all is adoption of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican,” and a determination to discontinue the divisive and deleterious speech, inferences, and actions. And for heaven’s sake, start talking with one another, rather than about one another!

One other thing is for certain: the other major Party is celebrating proportional to the GOP’s divisiveness. The victories they can’t win on their own will be handed to them by a bifurcated Republican Party.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at rlarsenen@cableone.net.


Support Conservative Daily News with a small donation via Paypal or credit card that will go towards supporting the news and commentary you've come to appreciate.

Richard Larsen

AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at rlarsenen@cableone.net.

Related Articles


  1. The liberal/progressive movement has take over the leadership of the Grand Old Party, and that became painlully obvious when they remove “Less taxes, Smaller Government, and More Individual Freedom” from the party platform. We on the right must always compromise with this leadership just like the leadership always compromises with the Democrats. The dilemma we on the right face is even if we compromise with the establishment Republicans, and they win, we and the country still lose. Selling our country down the drain for the betterment of a bunch of self serving politicians is not what our Founders had in mind. Capitulation to evil has put our country on the road to tyranny, now is the time to stand up for liberity. During the Korean War, the Marines believed “Death before Dishonor” was the preferable way to make a stand. So much better then the cowardice of the politicians we have today.

    1. L.E., you’re exactly right. But part of the problem with the establishment GOP is they’re willing to compromise, period, even if it means moving to the left with the country, and specific legislation, spending, etc.

      Compromise is crucial in the legislative process, but it must be only compromise to the right, not the left. We could never take the country back to the federalist system we conservatives believe in, and the country was founded upon, but each vote, either legislatively or electorally, must incrementally start moving us away from the progressive and fiscal abyss we’re racing toward as a country now.

      If every conservative in the country would vote in every election, and always vote for the more conservative candidate, we could start moving the country incrementally back to what the nation was founded to be, and should be; dedicated to individual liberty, free markets, less government.

  2. Rick, This is an issue that I’ve addressed numerous times in the ONE AMERICAN mail out I do,,,but never with the mastery you accomplished. With your permission, I will share intact this with those contacts…because, my friend, “truer words were never spoken.”…….If all that fly the GOP flag cannot find common ground and unify we will hear the funeral dirge resonate rather than the Star Spangled banner as we witness the Death of Our Nation.

    BOTH the ‘establishment GOP’ and ‘conservatives’ need to pull in their horns a tad bit, setting ‘ideals’ aside and discover what is ‘good’ about the other rather than what’s ‘wrong’ A tree that has no sway can be broken & uprooted in a storm…and, this IS a Storm!!

    I find it peculiar that in our daily relationships, both personal & business, we ‘compromise’ & have give and take, yet, when it comes to Our Great Nation, that ‘word’ becomes dirty and considered a ‘sell-out’

    The GOP tent is big enough to hold everyone IF we give them a defined reason to ‘come on in’.

    Are we really at the stage of “I say potata , you say potato, let’ call the whole thing off”??? I pray not…Allowing this marvelous Country to rot is an insult to Our Creator, that made the AMERICAN way of life….

    1. Jan, my dear friend, you are exactly right, as always! Thank you for your kind words of affirmation, and by all means, please circulate far and wide if you’re as convinced, as I am, that we can learn to focus on our commonality rather than our differences.

      I love your metaphor of the tree that has no sway. Not only is is excellent, it fits this context superbly! I’m going to have to quote you on that. 🙂

      Pew Research, for over 20 years, has been conducting the same poll about how Americans feel about free enterprise versus centralized planning. Consistently, over that time period, even over the past 6 years when we’ve witnessed such a concentrated attack on the system, 70% of Americans support free market capitalism. If we could tie in the rest of the conservative message to just that one common precept, there’s no election we couldn’t win, perhaps even in Pelosi’s District. 🙂 Focusing on our common values as opposed to our differences can make a world of difference in saving our republic!

  3. As Reagan said, “He who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy.”

    I can agree with that. Too bad the “Establishment” GOP doesn’t understand that moving towards the left doesn’t mean you agree with the TEA party 80% of the time. It means you agree with Democrats 80% of the time. When “Establishment” GOP support amnesty, Common CORE, bigger government, they are not with conservatives 80% of the time.

    The “Establishment” progressive GOP are with conservatives 20% of the time. And you wonder why conservatives stay home.

Back to top button