The Merits of “Infighting”
Eric Lendrum, Politics Contributor
Ever since the Republican landslide in the 2010 midterms, a consistent narrative used by the mainstream media and the GOP’s left-wing opponents (but I repeat myself) is that the American right-wing is “dysfunctional,” and prone to “infighting.” And indeed, there are several factions of the American right fighting for dominance: from the traditional conservatives (commonly known as the “New Right”), to the moderate establishment, from the libertarian Republicans to the alt-right. Each faction has some unique aspects to add to the debate, and possibly contribute to the future identity of the American right.
However, at the same time, these different factions have contributed to numerous internal conflicts within the Republican Party. Whether it was the Tea Party tsunami in 2010, or the revenge of the moderate establishment in 2014, or the rise of the alt-right in 2016, these various groups have risen and fallen over the years, constantly changing the apparent direction of the GOP.
Although there is an argument to be made that all of these rival factions are hurting the progress of the GOP, I will argue the opposite instead: this infighting is actually quite good for certain entities and groups.
In many ways, infighting can be seen as tryouts for dominance. It is a survival of the fittest political ideologies, where unrestricted competition in the marketplace of ideas will eventually produce one clear victor over the others.
The prime example, as I’ve mentioned before, is the GOP. Infighting has resulted in one particular faction rising to dominance, often based on the shifting demographics and ideological trends among the populace. This proved effective for the Christian Right in the 80s and 90s, and then again for the Tea Party in 2010, before it saw the rise of the alt-right with the election of Donald Trump. With the rivalries between the varying factions on display for the entire viewing public, the voters ultimately chose the winner just as the market may choose the superior business or product. This, of course, allows the party to adapt to the changes in public opinion as time goes on.
A more up-close example would be one of the aforementioned factions of the American right, the alt-right. Right now, there is a rather prominent civil war going on within the alt-right, where the actual members of the alt-right - social liberals, fiscal conservatives, and heavily patriotic Americans - are fighting off the small fringe group of white supremacists and anti-Semites trying to hijack the movement. The civil war has gotten ugly, with prominent members of the alt-right such as Mike Cernovich, Paul Joseph Watson, and Bill Mitchell taking on the white supremacists such as Richard Spencer and Tim Treadstone (commonly known as “Baked Alaska”). However, it has allowed both sides to make their arguments back and forth, defending themselves and attacking the other side, and with the public watching to eventually determine the winner of each round of the fight.
Conversely, look at the current status of the Democratic Party after the 2016 elections. Even with the Republican gains in 2010 and 2014, the Democrats tried to use Obama’s reelection in 2012 as a facade of unity. They consistently painted the Republicans as dysfunctional, and emphasized their own so-called “unity” as a clear advantage over the GOP. However, there clearly were strong divisions within the Democratic base - mainly between the moderate, Clinton-backing establishment and the more far-left, progressive, grassroots base. As a result of being suppressed for so long, these divisions swelled rapidly to a head in the primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The Democratic leadership’s efforts to undermine and suppress Sanders and his supporters in favor of Clinton only fueled this fire, and in the wake of Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, have left the party not only at their weakest state since the Civil War, but in pure chaos over how to overcome that.
Quite simply, the right-wing infighting (among the GOP and the alt-right) provided for healthy vetting of the strongest policy stances and rhetoric to take form by the time of the 2016 election. The different factions were able to establish some common ground, and coalesce around Trump’s broader, more libertarian approach to many issues, thus appealing to just about every major constituency in some way. Conversely, the Democrats tried to hide their divisions while forcing Clinton and her establishment stances onto everyone in the party - even those who definitely weren’t in that particular tent. As a result, one side is now almost fully united, and prepared to take on the challenges of the next eight years - while the other side wallows in chaos and misery, like bailing out water without first plugging the leak. Obviously, one is in a far better position than the other - and that is almost entirely due to the very “infighting” that it has been so ridiculed over for the past several years.
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