There has been a lot of talk following the passage of the “debt deal” in Washington on Tuesday. Some on the left are frothing angrily at how the Democrat leaders caved to the Republicans demand for no revenue increases (code for tax-hikes), while others on the right are rather bummed that the debt ceiling was raised at all.
One thing that I have seen arise from this crisis is a criticism of the Republican leaders for bowing to TEA party demands in the face of a national crisis. One op-ed described the Republican Party as a two-party coalition more than a unified party. In a coalition government, like the one currently operating in England, no party has a solid majority by itself. Two parties will then form a coalition and decide to govern together. The similarity that we see in Washington is that the Republican party is a bit divided between its TEA party members, about 100 or more members of Congress, and the rest of the party. These TEA party members are very vocal and must be consulted and courted for Boehner to do anything in Congress.
This situation is nothing new for the Republican Party. In the middle of the 20th century the Republican Party established its foundation on the three pillars of Conservatism: Social Conservatism, Fiscal Conservatism, and Defense Conservatism. These three groups of conservatives banded together to form a coalition. Reagan was a master at building and solidifying this coalition.
In our current political climate the loudest member of this coalition is the fiscal conservatives championed by the TEA party and fiscal hawks in congress. It doesn’t show weakness on Boehner’s part or for the Republican Party in general, if they have to consider the fiscal members of their coalition. Rather this pressure from the TEA party is good for the Republican Party since it will serve as a good balancing force to keep the party true to its roots.