Any Conservative Schism May Not Be What You Think
First, a friendly point of order for Matt Lewis on his piece suggesting a potential conservative schism demonstrated by the divide between Coulter and Kristol. The debate began long before Coulter chimed in. I snarked that Kristol should resign minutes after seeing his piece. Erick at Redstate promptly echoed Kristol in his call for Steele's resignation. Melissa Clouthier, Cubachi, and many others figured prominently in the debate.
Matt's an excellent young conservative journalist. I'm a fan and mean no disrespect. But it would be nice to see some of our younger talents not fall into the trap of thinking it takes a Coulter, or a Kristol to make something news. I say that, especially, as Matt is one of us out here. But I digress.
Ann Coulter's recent column "Bill Kristol Must Resign" may have officially kicked off the next great schism within the conservative movement. At issue is the war in Afghanistan — and, more specifically, whether Republicans should support President Obama's approach to a conflict that has now lasted for Americans far longer than World War II.
Regardless, debating this policy is healthy, and conservatives are justified to have this discussion. There are conservative arguments to be made for — or against — continuing the war in Afghanistan, just as I believe a principled conservative case could have been made (and was, in some quarters) against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. This is a debate that conservatives, and all Americans, should keep having. War is not something to be entered into lightly; nor should support for it ever be contingent on whether the commander in chief has a D after his name, or an R.
As I see it, the real debate is one of policy, not, should we support the war, or not. By ramping up as he has, if things don't go well, if casualties mount, Obama will likely undermine a longer-term, low-intensity effort to turn Afghanistan around. And ultimately, the real push back against it will come from the Left. So, I don't see it rising to the level of schism Matt suggests. However, I do believe a schism exists and is going to continue to grow.
I see the schism as more youngness in thinking, if not age, versus old line, or more traditional thought. One could also conceptualize it as establishment versus the base, or grassroots that we have today. But it is not quite the same grassroots most closely associated with the Christian Right, though they still make up a good portion of the overall base. Still, they aren't driving the discussion, they're a part of it.
Ultimately, I don't see Paul's isolationism taking hold on the Right. If we're attacked, the country will expect action. But barring certain events, foreign policy rising to the level of war likely isn't on the plate.
Interestingly enough, I would put Coulter in the youngness of thinking category, while seeing Erick and Redstate as, by and large, more traditional in some ways. This younger, or actually newer Right is more Libertarian, though not necessarily isolationist, but prudent, especially so, as it is driven by economic concerns and size of government. And I believe it will prevail.
It isn't being driven so much by thought leaders, as it is being driven by generational changes. I'm an older dog. But I'd like to think of my thinking as of the newer side. This more, let it all hang out Right simply isn't as troubled by Steele's gaffes. The old Right often seemed more hung up on propriety, than it did winning. I think the newer, if not always younger, Right simply wants to win and is less likely to be distracted by relatively insignificant events. It's also more concerned with fighting the Left, than tending to its own power base on the Right. All in all, I think it's a very good thing and will prove to be far more attractive to more Libertarian thinkers.