Ethics & Public Policy Center

Republican Civil War?

Published in National Review Online on November 5, 2009



The following appeared in the National Review Online Symposium, “Republican Civil War? Our experts respond.”

There is no civil war going on in the GOP. Even the brush fires we see are pretty tame.

In fact, during the last year in the political wilderness, Republican recriminations have been, for the most part, fairly minor and certainly manageable. There is no broad-based effort to tear down the pillars of the modern GOP. The GOP remains a center-right party — and any effort to make it otherwise would be silly and suicidal.

The reasons a lot of people are saying NY-23 was evidence of a coming crack-up within the party are that (a) they don’t know what actually happened on the ground and (b) they have an interest in pushing such a narrative.

What happened in NY-23 was sui generis. A very bad nominee was replaced by a novice who did not have the benefit of the imprimatur of the party at a time when it would have helped. If he’d had that, he probably would have won.

The only important lesson, I think, is that Republicans should select as their nominees people who reflect the basic principles of the party. When they don’t, they’re asking for trouble.

I understand that what voters in Vermont are looking for is different than what voters in Mississippi are looking for. The same model doesn’t sell well in every state. But Dede Scozzafava held views that made it difficult to take her Republican bone fides seriously, and the fact that she dropped out and endorsed a Democrat simply highlighted that fact.

What happened yesterday in Virginia and New Jersey dwarfs what happened in NY-23. It was a very good night for Republicans — and a very bad night for Democrats, Obama, and his entire statist agenda.

Peter Wehner, formerly deputy assistant to President Bush, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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