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The GOP Civil War: Mathematicians vs Priests

As the civil war within the Republican party has become absolutely obvious to everyone, mainstre Republican strategist Mike Murphy explains the split perfectly as one between mathematicians, who recognize demographic reality, and priests, who care only about doctrinal purity.

Mike Murphy: There seem to be two schools of thought in GOP. One group, the Mathematicians, look at the GOP’s losing streak and the changing demography of the country and say the party needs to make real changes to attract voters beyond the old Republican base of white guys. Not just mechanics, but also policy. They want to modernize conservatism and change some of the old dogma on big issues like same sex marriage. I’m one of them. The other group, the Priests, say the problem is we don’t have enough ideological purity. We must have faith, be pure and nominate “real conservatives” (whatever that means; the Priests are a bit slippery about their definitions) who will fight without compromise against liberalism. The Priests are mostly focused on the sins we are against; they say our problem is a lack of intensity; if we are passionate and loud enough, we will alert and win over the rest of the country. The Mathematicians hear all this and think the Priests are totally in a 55-year-old white guy echo chamber of their own creation and disconnected from the reality of today’s electorate. They are worry more about what the party should be for, and how we grow our numbers. They think the Priests fail to understand it is not 1980 anymore and votes are not there for the Old Pitch. The Priests hear the Mathematicians and think they are all sell-outs.

What I find fascinating about this is how that same battle has played out many times over in our history, most recently in the 1960s with the civil rights battles. Both parties faced similar internal battles. The Republicans had traditionally been the pro-equality party and the Democrats the party of segregation but both were undergoing internal conflicts over civil rights for blacks. The Republicans were beginning to move to the right and the Democrats were beginning to move to the left on the issue, but the real split was geographic.

The voting for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a perfect example. A filibuster of the bill was led by Democrats Strom Thurmond, Richard Russell and Robert Byrd (not far removed from having been a grand wizard of the KKK), but the bill was also assured through to passage by Democrats Mike Mansfield and Hubert Humphrey, who had caused great controversy in 1948 when he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention calling on the party to embrace equality.

And of course, it was signed into law by LBJ, who famously told an aide when he signed it that the Democratic party would lose the south for a generation as a result. And indeed, that was the key factor at the time. Over 90% of the legislators from either party in both the House and the Senate from states that were part of the union in the Civil War voted for the Civil Rights Act; for legislators from the Confederate states, only 8% in the House and 5% in the Senate voted for it.

The battle in the Democratic party at the time was quite similar to the battle going on within the Republican party today. The strategists in the party knew that America was changing and that the party could either change with the times or be left behind; the priests demanded purity, arguing that the party would destroy itself if it did not stand up for segregation. We all know what happened. The party chose to support civil rights and the Dixiecrats, the conservative Southern Democrats who demanded adherence to the tradition of segregation, left and joined the Republican party en masse.

The Republican party now faces a similar problem today. Do they continue to appeal to their shrinking conservative base in the face of massive demographic shifts that make the electoral math more and more difficult? Or do they adapt to a rapidly changing society? Only time will tell.

Comments

  1. raven says

    Salon. com:

    The heads and public faces of the House Tea Party Caucus are….Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann and Joe Walsh of Illinois. But while there may be Tea Party sympathizers throughout the country, in the House of Representatives the Tea Party faction that has used the debt ceiling issue to plunge the nation into crisis is overwhelmingly Southern in its origins:

    Tea Party Caucus

    South 39 (63%

    Northeast 1 (2%)

    Midwest 12 (19%)

    West 10 (16%)

    The ugly open secret is that the Tea Party is mostly the old Confederacy with a new sheet over it. 63% are from the South with the rest scattered, mostly in rural areas of the midwest and west.

    The Civil War ended 148 years ago. They haven’t been able to move on though.

    I wouldn’t call this a conflict between the Mathematicians and Priests. It’s more between the old Confederacy and the pragmatists of Big Business.

  2. MikeMa says

    The Republican party now faces a similar problem today. Do they continue to appeal to their shrinking conservative base in the face of massive demographic shifts that make the electoral math more and more difficult? Or do they adapt to a rapidly changing society?

    They could try to restrict voting rights. This is in process all over the country but especially in the south. Texas is currently looking to add women’s voting rights to the chopping block.

  3. raven says

    I wouldn’t call the Tea Party “conservative”.

    It’s mostly fundie xians from the South central USA. A lot of them are xian Dominionist theocrats and there is nothing conservative about them. They are fascist totalitarians. And a lot of the are racists watching the US becoming a white minority country with fear and loathing.

  4. Michael Heath says

    I’m currently reading 1491, which reviews emerging findings about human civilization in the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus’ arrival.

    Civilizations whose economic wellbeing was threatened by climatic or other environmental changes often demonstrated a particular pattern. Their elites became more tyrannical and put more strain on the people to devote more resources to religion, like building more temples at a faster rate. In spite of the fact these civilizations saw its food security dwindling.

    So history repeats itself, here thousands of years, though we humans generally have one big advantage. Our intellectual elites are no longer in the same tribe as the religious-political elites, precisely because of the emergence of secularism. So we can fight back though we’re currently losing badly on the climate change front where its predominately religious leaders who keep their flock on the side of the denialism, with of course the exception of secular libertarians who think about politics equivalent in quality to how the sheeple think about religion.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    If there are any “mathematicians” in the Republican party, then why does their economic theory suck so badly?

  6. Michael Heath says

    raven writes:

    The ugly open secret is that the Tea Party is mostly the old Confederacy with a new sheet over it. 63% are from the South with the rest scattered, mostly in rural areas of the midwest and west.

    This badly misconstrues the last 45 years by minimizing the actual harm these conservatives have done to the world, the entire nation, many non-confederate states, rural non-confederate districts, and even those districts that aren’t run by conservatives but are gerrymandered into irrelevancy.

    I realize there’s a bunch of maps spreading around the liberal blogosphere showing consolidation points for Tea Partiers and others of a similar ilk – and those are useful information. But their distribution can’t be easily converted to how policies impact people outside the old confederacy.

    Know thy enemy.

  7. says

    Well, the GOP rewrites history, so this faux struggle will cease to exist.

    There are no mathematicians, only priests. The mathematicians simply give in. “Well 2 + 3 can be considered six for sufficiently large values of 2; besides Obama said 57 states…”

  8. says

    The difference between the democrats of the 60s and the republicans of today is that neither faction wants to change “The Old Pitch.” The priests want to double down and go even further to the right while the mathematicians just want to figure out how to repackage the same message to make it appealing to women and minorities. They call that “outreach.”

  9. raven says

    The Texas GOP has been beating up on women for a few years now. To the point where many of them are fed up. Wendy Davis was unknown a few months ago and is now a serious candidate for governor.

    They think they have the solution though. Don’t let women vote!!! Why not, it worked so well when they did that to racial minorities.

    I just copied an article on this below. For the TL, DR version, the relevant quote is here

    But a much larger segment of the electorate, particularly women, will be impacted by the requirement that a voter’s ID be ‘substantially similar’ to their name on the voter registration rolls. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a third of all women have citizenship documents that do not match their current legal name.”

    When the war on voting meets the war on women
    10/23/13 12:53 PM
    By Steve Benen

    The standard condemnations of voter-ID laws have the benefit of being true: the laws are intended to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, and have the practical effect of discriminating against the poor, the elderly, students, and minorities.

    But let’s also not forget the impact on women voters.

    Rick Hasen flagged a remarkable story out of Corpus Christi, Texas, where the state’s new voter-ID law – imposed after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act – is causing problems for women who use maiden names or hyphenated names. A local district court judge experienced the problem first hand.
    “What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts said.

    Watts has voted in every election for the last 49 years. The name on her driver’s license has remained the same for 52 years, and the address on her voter registration card or driver’s license hasn’t changed in more than two decades. So imagine her surprise when she was told by voting officials that she would have to sign a “voters affidavit” affirming she was who she said she was.

    “Someone looked at that and said, ‘Well, they’re not the same,’” Watts said.

    The difference? On the driver’s license, Judge Watts’ maiden name is her middle name. On her voter registration, it’s her actual middle name.
    And that alone was enough to trigger a red flag. Under Texas’ new law, Watts had trouble voting for the first time in her life, all because of a ridiculous ID law that was approved by Republicans to stack elections in their favor.

    Remember, over the last 13 years, tens of millions of votes have been cast in Texas, and the grand total of documented instances of voter fraud is one – not one percent, just one guy.

    And yet, state Republicans approved a discriminatory voter-ID law anyway. As Ari Berman explained, the law is off to a rough start: “Based on Texas’s own data, 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters don’t have the government-issued ID needed to cast a ballot, with Hispanics 46 to 120 percent more likely than whites to lack an ID. But a much larger segment of the electorate, particularly women, will be impacted by the requirement that a voter’s ID be ‘substantially similar’ to their name on the voter registration rolls. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a third of all women have citizenship documents that do not match their current legal name.”

    U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder launched a challenge against the Texas law in August, though the law remains in place as the litigation process continues.

  10. jakc says

    And some Democrats, like LBJ, knew that, regardless of strategy, ensuring civil rights for all was the right thing to do

  11. Alverant says

    @Raven #3 how does that make the Tea party not conservative? They sound very conservative to me.

  12. doublereed says

    Being able to count, add, and read a chart makes you a mathematician only for very small values of mathematician.

  13. otrame says

    From the FAQ on the new voter ID laws on on the state elections website:

    6. . My name on my approved photo ID does not exactly match my name on my voter registration card. Can I still vote?

    Election officials will review the ID and if a name is “substantially similar” to the name on their list of registered voters, you will still be able to vote, but you will also have to submit an affidavit stating that you are the same person on the list of registered voters.

    7. What does “substantially similar” mean?

    A voter’s name is considered substantially similar if one or more of the following circumstances applies:

    The name on the ID is slightly different from one or more of the name fields on the official list of registered voters.

    The name on the voter’s ID or on list of registered voters is a customary variation of the voter’s formal name. For example, Bill for William, or Beto for Alberto.

    The voter’s name contains an initial, middle name, or former name that is either not on the official list of registered voters or on the voter’s ID.

    A first name, middle name, former name or initial of the voter’s name occupies a different field on the presented ID document than it does on the list of registered voters.

    In considering whether a name is substantially similar, election officials will also look at whether information on the presented ID matches elements of the voter’s information on the official list of registered voters such as the voter’s residence address or date of birth.

    Note that it looks like it’s up to the election official to decide if there is enough other evidence than the name to go by and even if they do, you still have to sign an affidavit. This is very wasteful of time at the polls, but the potential for abuse is pretty obvious. My DL does not match my Voter Card because they asked for birth name when I registered to vote and put that in place of my middle name, a standard practice, while my DL has my middle name and my married name.

    Now, Bexar County went for Obama and can be considered a blue freckle on the face of Texas, so I doubt I’ll have much trouble, but in other parts of the state there may be real trouble.

    Still, I promise to raise holy hell if they try to foist a “provisional” ballet on me.

  14. doublereed says

    That’s going to backfire much harder. Women are part of almost every family. It’s much harder to ignore that kind of thing.

  15. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    With apologies to academics whose field is the manipulation of sets and quantities according to logical rules, I feel that in this context I can safely say:


    Humanity will never be free until the last mathematician is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

  16. D. C. Sessions says

    If there are any “mathematicians” in the Republican party, then why does their economic theory suck so badly?

    Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.

  17. jws1 says

    I dunno if today’s situation of the GOP is as close to the situation of 50s-60s Democrats; the Blue Dogs had a viable home to go to – the GOP. Where does the Tea Party go to if it is eventually marginalized by the “mathematicians”? There are only two parties, and both do a damn fine job of making sure that there are ONLY two parties. And the “Priests” haven’t demonstrated that they go quietly into that good night….

  18. D. C. Sessions says

    Where does the Tea Party go to if it is eventually marginalized by the “mathematicians”?

    Why does everyone assume that the teahadists will be the ones leaving? They’re the ones who control the primaries, people — the ones who have the on-the-street organization, the GOTV machinery, the pulpits, and the radio voices calling the shots. The Murdoch Media are somewhere near neutral (Fox is teahadist, the Wall Street Journal mixed but with an establishment preponderance.)

    If one faction or the other is forced out of the Party of Davis, my money is on the RINOs being the ones in the leaky boats.

  19. says

    No one forced the GOP to alienate ethnic, religious, and other minorities. This was a deliberate choice they made. It’s how they decided to sell their plutocratic policies to the white middle class.

    It’s amusing to see even the smart ones pretend as if they’re just passive bystanders to their own demise, as if they didn’t deserve it and couldn’t see it coming.

  20. D. C. Sessions says

    @20: How’s that been working in the primaries? Is McConnell running scared of the moneychangers or of the priests?

  21. blf says

    Where does the Tea Party go to if it is eventually marginalized by the “mathematicians”?

    Same place as the (then-racist) Governor George Wallace did — join or form a new party. Which, as you point out, will fail. But realizing that is a doomed venture requires a passing acquaintance with reality…

  22. blf says

    It’s amusing to see even the smart [thugs] pretend as if they’re just passive bystanders to their own demise, as if they didn’t deserve it and couldn’t see it coming.

    Which brings up another point: The complete incompetence of the leadership. Paul Krugman, writing in the NY Times, pointed out the leadership (and specifically John Boehner) seems to be suffering from the Dunning–Kruger effect (so incompetent they fail to recognize their own incompetence).

  23. abb3w says

    @21ish, D. C. Sessions

    Is McConnell running scared of the moneychangers or of the priests?

    Largely from the reason Reginald Selkirk points out @5ish, “priests versus moneychangers” does look like a closer characterization than “priests versus mathematicians”. Kudos. However, I suspect “pharisees versus moneychangers” might be even more rhetorically effective for eroding the GOP support base.

  24. coffeehound says

    RS @ #5,

    If there are any “mathematicians” in the Republican party, then why does their economic theory suck so badly?

    By “mathematicians” they mean people like Dean Chambers, so there’s that….

  25. says

    @18: The Tea Party most definitely does not have Wall Street. Game, set, match.

    I don’t know about that. While Wall Street has no use for government shut-downs and debt defaults (and is more than pleased to feed at the government trough), they share with the Tea Party a belief in their own moral superiority combined with a strong sense of victimhood. Wall Street’s version is just more Ayn Randish rather than predicated on racial/cultural grounds.

  26. freehand says

    Area Man: @18: The Tea Party most definitely does not have Wall Street. Game, set, match.

    I don’t know about that. While Wall Street has no use for government shut-downs and debt defaults (and is more than pleased to feed at the government trough), they share with the Tea Party a belief in their own moral superiority combined with a strong sense of victimhood. Wall Street’s version is just more Ayn Randish rather than predicated on racial/cultural grounds.

    1. Profit above all. They are more likely to continue to profit under a Romney than under a President Bachman.
    2. Wall Street executives would have no trouble sitting down for a power lunch with a standard senator. They would not want to spend face time with a Patriot®. That’s like having lunch with the janitor. Eww.

    Overall, I think profit and deportment outweigh victimhood and smug righteousness.

  27. whheydt says

    Re: Texas Voter ID Law…

    Slate ran an article suggesting that, not just women, but specifically *Republican* women will be hard hit due to their relatively high divorce/remarriage rates.

    Re: Where does the Tea Party go?

    The Democratic party is hardly “liberal” any more. the “non-nutcase” Republicans might find themselves quite happy as Democrats.

    Or, of course, we might see a “regional” party emerge to contain the–dominant–Southern wing of the Tea Party. The South spent pretty much a century as nominal Democrats because of resenting Republicans over the Civil War. As noted, they switched sides over the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Can the ones that aren’t crazy go back to being Democrats if the Tea Party takes over the Republican party? Who knows…

  28. says

    “@Raven #3 how does that make the Tea party not conservative? They sound very conservative to me.”

    They are NOT conservatives; they are reactionaries. There is nothing reasoned, cautious or gradual about their actions. They want to return the U.S. to a time when WHITE men were men while women, children and non0-whites (in toto) were accessories or chattel.

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