The Iowa Republican Party held its biennial State Convention Saturday. The boys over at the Iowa Republican provided detailed, albeit somewhat establishment tilted coverage. The reader who is interested in the timeline of confusion, conflict and cowardice can pick up coverage here and here.
Needless to say the Convention unwound as conventions usually unwind, abundant fighting (primarily over who gets the cool vacation to Tampa; a worthy prize because the National Conventions are a blast for political junkies), bitter recriminations on all sides, and the establishment(s) still as established as ever.
The divisions in RPI are ultimately about the only thing that ultimately matters in politics-from antiquity to now-power. Without power political events are at best rallies at which the troops are inspired and morale developed and at worst, blather fests, without the trophies, rules and civility of actual debate tournaments. Iowa conventions are mostly the later.
There is no one establishment but rather three in Iowa, one of which, the Tea Party/Paul small government group is quite new. Not every member of the TPP is new to Iowa politics. The TPP veterans carry the personal grievances of past battles, of course. Such grievances are being amplified by the other two subsets of the Iowa GOP. The leadership of this group have no real desire to share power with the other two clans because such power sharing means that party reform will stall, and with it actual governing reform will whither and die.
The second group, the organized Christian right, best illustrated by the IFPC and its leadership in Chuck Hurley and Bob VanderPlaats, similarly want their agenda implemented. The IFPC group has no particular interest in sharing power with TPP clan because it dilutes the IFPC ability to control delegates, etc... However, the TPP and IFPC clan share one important attribute, or perhaps deficiency: they lack to wiles to outwit the Establishment they are fighting to overthrow, and have, in many ways become an Establishment to themselves. The IFPC clan politically turn the other cheek when slapped down by political rivals. And their opponents give the IFPC clan plenty of opportunities to turn that cheek.
Neither of the first two clans has the power to implement an agenda, either within the Party or among the elected governing Republicans. That brass ring goes to the Clan of the Cave Bear.
Number three on your roster but number 1 on the totem pole-"the Establishment". The money people, who rarely attend conventions or interact with the rabble who convene, the big predators, top of the food chain. These are the people to whom the platform does not matter and they don't mind so saying. The Republican "establishment" are sustained by party loyalists who simply follow the leader (next in line) or feel akin to the liberal Republicans who still view government as instrument of public welfare, channeled through their particular industries and employers of course. The common theme of the establishment are donors who want something from government and beneficiaries that are willing to give that something. These are not evil people, they just have an agenda and belief structure very different from the TPP and the IFPC clans. The Establishment has money, guile, and tradition in their corner. That's three powerful assets.
The Establishment clan controls most of the money and most of the real governing power. Theirs is the more timid agenda, superior in almost every way to Democrat governance to be sure, but certainly nothing like the aggressive change that the TPP and the IFPC clans advocate. Moreover, this agenda of growing and more powerful government, like the Democrats, has become increasingly irreconcilable with the aims of the other two clans. As a result, unity is cast aside while the internal civil war rages on.
So, was the Convention a party, like Hawk fans getting together to watch the Orange Bowl beat down of Georgia Tech? Did everyone have a good time? Nope. People left angry and more divided than ever. Old enimities were hardened and new ones created. The people who run each clan are still running them. The legislative delegation, much less the Governor's office, still has no reason to care what the average Republican thinks about government, and the average Republican is still afraid to voice their beliefs for fear those beliefs will not be echoed by our leadership and they will miss their own cut of the pie-like Oliver Twist asking for just a little more porridge.
Until one of these clans can drive a unifying message (which is not chanting the mantra of "party loyalty) we will see increasingly ugly primaries and party conventions. Its the nature of politics-there can be only one ideology in charge at a time.