- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2010

What’s going on in the Republican Party across the country isn’t a civil war as much as it’s a tale of two paradigms.

When you remove the names, personalities, egos, candidates and factions that are being discussed constantly, what this represents is a seismic shift in the political preferences of the Republican base as the GOP has squandered the power voters lavished upon it over the past decade.

Instead of taking their majorities in both houses of Congress and teaming with the presidency to stem the tide of pagan socialism incrementally implemented by the Democratic Party for generations, Republicans punted on nearly every cultural issue while simultaneously cashing the check at the taxpayers’ expense, creating a sense of betrayal that many Americans - including the party’s own grass-roots supporters - still haven’t gotten over.

This is why people aren’t buying into new top-down leadership, seeing it as a repackaged version of that in which they already have lost trust. Attempts to unify the party come across as clumsy or condescending, at best, without recognizing that both conservatives focused on economics and conservatives focused on social issues have seen their core beliefs trampled by leaders who claimed to be their champions.

Unification as it was defined in the previous era is impossible. Trust is gone. As is the case with the breakup of any long-term relationship, both sides try to exert pressure on each other to avoid the fear of what comes next before finally letting go.

To put it in Facebook vernacular, the relationship status of the old Reagan coalition in America could best be described by the phrase “it’s complicated.”

The old Reagan coalition was the last seismic shift in American politics, mainstreaming born-again Christians and their domestic concerns while rebuilding a tough containment policy in the Cold War. That renewed, confident America crushed the Soviet Union.

However, once that external threat was neutralized, those new activists in the Reagan coalition expected cultural threats from within to become a higher priority. Marxists on college campuses were every bit as dangerous as the ones in Moscow.

But ever since Pat Buchanan’s infamous “culture war” speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, the divide between the party establishment and grass-roots social conservatives has grown. Conservatives put aside their concerns in the days following Sept. 11, 2001, once again giving ground on their priorities to face down an external threat. As social conservatives saw their issues drift into the background, economic conservatives found their core values under assault by their own administration.

Now that many Americans no longer sense a clear and present danger from Islamic radicalism as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq rage on and on with no end in sight, the cultural divide between traditional party-focused Republicans and issue-focused conservatives has returned with a vengeance.

This time, for the first time, both sides seem willing to see how life could be without the other.

The lines are being drawn, and everyone is going to be forced to choose which side he or she is on. Even some good people who have spent the past few years trying to bridge this divide are going to find themselves caught in the middle.

This is always what happens when paradigms clash within a movement. At first, those in favor of the new paradigm try being puritans, believing that those perpetuating the old paradigm are just misinformed and would see things the new way if the new-paradigm people established a rapport with them or shared the truth with them. After a while, though, it becomes obvious to those advocating a new paradigm that many in favor of the old one are financially vested in keeping failure alive, so the puritans eventually become separatists.

Here’s what divides the party-focused old guard and the issue-focused new-paradigm conservatives, whose most visible expression is the stridently independent Tea Party movement:

Party unity

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