A Party versus a Collection of Factions

Yuval Levin has a good article on National Review Online called The Election and the Right.

Read the whole thing, but particularly (emphasis added):

The Democratic Party is mostly an incoherent amalgam of interest groups, most of which are vying for benefits for themselves and their members at the expense of other Americans. This kind of party is why America’s founders worried about partisanship and were, at least at first, eager to avoid a party system. It is a bunch of factions more than a party. The basic distinction between a faction and a proper party—a distinction proposed by Edmund Burke, among the first positive proponents of parties in the Anglo-American tradition—is that a faction seeks power over the whole for its own advantage while a party seeks power to advance its own vision of the good of the whole. “A party,” Burke wrote, “is a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavor the national interest upon some principle in which they are all agreed.”

Some of today’s Democrats do advance such a view of the good of the whole—a progressive view by which the national interest is served by replacing traditional mediating institutions with the more rational and technocratic public institutions of the welfare state, replacing what they take to be a stifling combination of moral collectivism and economic individualism with what they take to be a liberating combination of moral individualism and economic collectivism. It is this view that conservatives call “the Left” and which we oppose and resist. But the Democrats are not united by this view and are by no means all agreed in it. The party’s electoral strength is not a function of its commitment to this view or of the public’s acceptance of it. Its electoral strength is a function of a coalition of special-interest groups that provide both voters and activists in return for the party protecting their interests at the expense of those of other Americans when it is in power.

The Republican Party has its own interest groups too, of course. It has often been too protective of big business, above all. But interest groups of this sort in Republican politics play nothing like the role they have in Democratic politics. The Republican Party, for good and bad, is much more of a real party—largely united and moved (and increasingly so) by a complicated and often contradictory but at bottom very coherent worldview we call conservatism which, to vastly overgeneralize, argues for traditional morality, free enterprise, and a robust national defense. The party’s electoral strength is without question a function of this view and of the public’s acceptance of it (or lack thereof). Its electoral fate therefore depends on its ability to lay out this vision of American life (at least in part translated into concrete policy) for voters in an appealing way and to persuade them of its virtues and its value to them and their country.

A quibble: Levin’s characterization of the Republican Party applies more accurately to the Tea Party Movement than to the Party as a whole.

The Republicans, especially in Washington, have too many who are content with the Special Interest State as long as they can direct the flow of the goodies, or fatten their campaign consultancy fees from the donations of the faithful. That is a major reason why elements of the Party are so willing to join the Democrats in their trashing of the Tea Parties and Sarah Palin, who want to restore the Party to Levin’s vision of it. This is anathema to the looters.

Of course, a reason for me to like Levin’s article so much is that it picks up the same themes as my book Ending ‘Big SIS’ (The Special Interest State) and Renewing the American Republic. Since I regard understanding these themes as essential to our political renaissance, I am delighted to have company.


Tags: , , , , ,

Comment Policy: The Editors reserve the right to delete any comments which in their sole discretion are deemed false or misleading, profane, pornographic, defamatory, harassment, name calling, libelous, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate. Additionally, the Editors reserve the right to ban any registered poster who, in their sole discretion, violates the terms of use. Do not post any information about yourself reasonably construed as private or confidential. Conservatives4Palin and its contributors are not liable if users allow others to contact them offsite.

  • John_Frank

    James, thanks for drawing this article to our attention.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/JV-DeLong/100003838521300 JV DeLong

    I should add a quotation from Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek, too:

    "The public school teachers are one protected group. They are not alone.
    Equally unhealthy is the protected status of the financial class.
    Republicans and Democrats are both friendly to the investment banks and
    their executives. Then there are the farmers. Public unions. The
    autoworkers. The green energy industry. All of these groups get special
    treatment, special favors, protection from competitors.  That divides us
    into those with special privileges and those without. It is very
    corrosive for democracy and for capitalism. And it makes us poorer. More
    energy goes into being in the protected class. Less energy is left over
    for productive activity serving others."

    • conservativemama

      So true, so true, so sad.

      Think of this election as a tsunami for the GOP establishment.  I for one hope they’re washed away.  But of course, like any other cronies hanging onto power and our money, they will not go quietly into the good night.

  • Jon Kelly

    The Republican Party that existed on November 5 is DEAD.  That Republican Party stood for only one thing NO TAXES everything else was open to compromise. Romney a decent man went against his own personal values because all the political experts said "don’t make waves".  The Democrats at least stand for something (1) entitlements, (2) America is not extraordinary and shouldn’t be the lone world power, (3) a political correctness that allows officeholders to say and do anything to stay in office. To challenge Democratic officeholders is to be a racist, a religious extremist, or whatever. The time has come "TO STOP BLAMING EVERYONE ELSE". The Republican Party NEEDS to find a reason why it should continue to exist. THE MAJORITY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BELIEVE IN THESE VALUES (1)GOD – (2) COUNTRY and (3) FAMILY. The Party has become irrelevant because it’s self-appointed leaders are afraid to speak the truth. These "leaders" and pundits are no different than Democrats. WHY DOES THE ESTABLISHMENT "HATE" SARAH PALIN—— BECAUSE SHE STANDS FOR BASIC VALUES AND WON’T COMPROMISE THEM. The Republican Party has to change or it will die. What are they afraid of? Losing an election? STAND UP FOR WHAT IS RIGHT because America will need someone to turn to when the bottom falls out.

    • Patriot41

      Jon, the bottom has already fell out and yes, the GOP is already dead for all intensive purposes.  If we do not come up with a party that supports the values that were intended when our forefathers wrote that great document, our Constitution, then the Republic is also dead.

  • slhancock

    It is time to form a 3rd party candidacy.  The Republicans are STILL not ready to listen to the base. They think THEY are the base, but without conservatives, there would be little left to vote for them.  While Tea Party has been trashed to death, maybe Constitution Party or something else would be more appropriate.

    The republican elites are clueless.  They do not recognize or value the help the Tea Party has given them.  Democrats who joined the Tea Party will NOT vote for republicans who are no better than their own party.  Why do so many in the republican party want to be democrat-lite?  Why would anybody leave the democrat party to vote republican if they were no different that the democrats?  This is NOT rocket science!  Conservativism wins.  Socialism-lite does not.  Yes, Obama won, but because many conservatives could not bring themselves to vote for Romney.  I was angry that Romney shunned Sarah.  She had a lot to offer at the convention, but he would not share the spotlight with her, and, even though I eventually voted for Romney (and I’m certain Sarah did, too!) I think many felt that enough was enough.  When it leaked that Christie had been the #1 choice up until the very last, I think a lot of people felt that Romney could not be trusted.  I do feel that we lost the election due to voter fraud, but had we had a better turnout, voter fraud would not have been an issue.  I know it was MUCH worse this year than any I’ve ever seen or heard, but still, had we really turned out the vote there would have had to be so much fraud as to call serious attention to it.  Bush won with huge voter fraud going on.  The democrats have been honing their skills for decades.  But, we’ve been able to defang it by turning out the vote.  From the get-go, I felt that the elites were making sure that Romney won.  But one thing that hurt EVERYBODY, except Romney, was the number of candidates in the field.  WAY TOO MANY!  That was a disaster. There should have been a way to limit or narrow the field before the debates begin. PERIOD.  Disaster is coming to America.  I hope we can survive it and make some progress, but I am not confident in that. Sending our children into the lions’ dens to be educated is turning out poorly educated and well-indoctrinated leftists.  They don’t know anything except leftist drivel.  They cannot think for themselves. They do not know right from wrong.  We cannot go on as a civilization like this.  This is certain.  Churches must begin to make Christian principles important and not just cliches.  We must move on past the nice-sounding platitudes to preparing children for real life and making them righteous citizens, proud to love God and country, but with knowledge of the Truth, not just feeling.

    • Patriot41

      sl, when the nation turns it’s back on God, it will also turn it’s back on it’s own.  Our govt., has turned it’s back on God years ago and as a result, the citizens have turned to the govt., instead of reliance on God.  Soon the govt., will be unable to pacify the citizens and they will then turn on the govt.  History is rife with the same story throughout so called civilization.  It will be no different here, unless this nation repents and returns to God for all of their needs.

      Regarding your statement about too many candidates in the GOP primary.  I cannot agree with you on that one.  You speak as though you are a conservative and if that is the case, you should realize that the GOPe, did everything in it’s power, to eliminate the conservative candidates running against their chosen establishment candidate.  My point, is that the GOPe wanted nothing to do with a conservative as the party leader and therefore created the hostility within it’s own ranks.  In the process, it also alienated the libertarians support as well.  I would suggest that the millions who did not turn out for Romney, consisted of many of those libertarians because of the way their candidate was treated by the GOPe.  You cannot build a winning coalition when you attack groups that would normally support your efforts.

      When you speak as a conservative, you speak of morals and values if you are a social conservative.  Many of the libertarians I listened to on several blogs, spoke of the same values that conservatives love to boast about.  Mostly, they spoke of principles that they hold dearly and supporting a candidate that did not adhere to those principles, but constantly attacked them, convinced them not to turn out at the polls.  They believe that those who did vote against their own values, were the ones who betrayed this country.  I found it difficult to counter that argument.

      The majority of the Tea Party movement, consist of both social and fiscal conservatives and there is a defining difference between the two.  Christians can be placed in the social conservative segment, because of their concern for moral principles.  That is not the case for many fiscal conservatives, who believe that personal morality is not significant in dealing with the problems that this nation is faced with.  I do not agree with that assessment, but nonetheless, there is an opportunity to build strength in unity between these two factions, for the purpose of saving and rebuilding our nation.  I would say the same thing about encouraging the libertarians to join in a movement to consolidate all groups that believe in our Constitution and are willing to fight for it.  To do this, we would have to form a third party, with a Constitutional platform that is agreeable for all of our patriots.  The GOP used to have such a platform, but has long abandoned it other then writing it down at each convention.

      Trying to takeover or rebuild the GOP as a conservative party, has proven time and again to be an utter failure and waste of valuable time.  We are rapidly running out of time as our Republic is now on it’s deathbed gasping for breath.  The time to apply the oxygen needed to keep our Republic alive, is now and through a Conservative third party movement.  Both the democrat and republican parties are in disarray as proven by the drop in registration of both parties.  Conservatives need to provide a party that will appeal to all who are disenchanted with both of the current political parties that have divided this nation. 

  • CapitalG

    The only thing wrong with the GOP is their refusal to stand up for themselves. They’ve let themselves becoming the whipping boy of the media and painted as a racist.

    Instead, they should be pointing out that 94% of blacks voted for FAUXbama and note that only racism can create such numbers. If 94% of whites voted for the white candidate you would sure as hell hear some allegations of racism.

    Some are calling for the party to rally behind Rubio because he is a Latino and we have to appeal to Latinos. Ridiculous. That is what Democrats do – divide people up by race and then pit them against each other for political gain.

    Democrats call black Republicans ‘sellouts to their race’ so doesn’t that also mean that white Democrats are a sellout to the white race? By Democrat logic it would appear so.

    • CrackerJacker

      94% of blacks voted for Obama because they believe that government led by the GOP would make their lives worse.  A majority of white people voted for Romney because they believe that government led by the Democrats would make their lives worse.  That’s not racism, that’s self interest and that is how EVERYONE votes. 

      Now, you can break it by race — and that is one way to look at the numbers — but you can also break it by gender:  Men: Romney, Women: Obama or by geography: Rural/Agrarian states: Romney, Urban/Industrial states: Obama, and on and on.

      You can call it Democratic pandering to race or gender or "elites" but whatever you call  it, the majorities of non-whites, women and urban people do not believe that the GOP is the way forward for them.  The GOP needs to understand what turned those groups off if they want to move forward, because those are all growing groups. 

      • CBDenver

         RE"  "94% of blacks voted for Obama because they believe that government led by the GOP would make their lives worse."  Considering that the black unemployment rate is 16.7% under Obama, the idea that life under Obama’s policies will be better for blacks doesn’t seem to be working out so well. 

        People see that America is in economic decline.  The Democrats promise to make sure their constituents get a big piece of the ever-shrinking pie.  That is the appeal.  When the current debt-driven economy collapses, then the message of limited government and individual freedom will regain its appeal because the "sugar daddy" big government will not have any more goodies to spread around

        • CrackerJacker

          "The Democrats promise to make sure their constituents get a big piece of the ever-shrinking pie."

          Is that why most of the states that went to Romney take more in federal funding than they collect in taxes?  Sounds like that ever shrinking pie is being eaten in the South.

  • attydomsalv

    Read Jay Cost’s book – Spoiled Rotten.  Addresses this very issue and traces how the Democratic Party has become so beholden to various special interests over the course of 175 years that it can no longer govern effectively.

  • BrianusBerkleianus



  • BrianusBerkleianus


Open Thread

Governor Palin’s Tweets