11.04.2010

On the way forward

I've been heartened by the apparent humility, noted by Brad and Mike earlier today, of the Republican victory. From the victory speeches I've heard (including Boehner's bizarrely tearful one), Republicans appear to be focused on a philosophical opposition -- culture war bugle calls were few and far between.

But there is still a dichotomy in the Tea Party, and in the GOP more broadly, and it's right to anticipate possible rifts as the party moves in:
In the kind of opposition Ms. Palin represents, issues aren’t always meant to be addressed through governance, but rather to be deployed as blunt instruments in pursuit of more electoral gains. For the new Republican-led House, that would mean more questions about the president’s birth certificate, more subpoenas flowing down Pennsylvania Avenue, more votes on abortion and flag burning and all of that.

And it might mean passing a bill on gun rights or school prayer that excites the base, knowing full well that the Democratic-controlled Senate will simply let it die anyway.

Mr. Ryan, of Wisconsin, on the other hand, is the author of a radically austere plan to scale back federal spending, and he is about to become chairman of the House Budget Committee. Mr. Ryan, a Washington insider, is heir to the side of the conservative movement that grew out of think tanks and policy journals in the 1960s and ’70s.

To Mr. Ryan’s way of thinking, liberals in government aren’t cultural imperialists; in fact, he gets along with them just fine. Rather, Mr. Ryan sees the president and his allies as hopelessly misguided, reliant on unsustainable government spending rather than the market. Mr. Ryan’s kind of opposition would offer up an alternative, polarizing agenda, forcing President Obama and his allies to defend their philosophy and their intransigence.
For all his rising-star quality, I fear that Ryan lacks the enthusiastic Tea Party base that would give him real leverage in this session. I'll be watching him closely.