As a youngster I watched the exact same debate, from the other side.
In the 1960s there were three Republican Parties:
- Javits Republicans, centered at the heart of Democratic power, who sought to modify (slightly) the incumbents’ programs but generally went along with them;
- Dirksen Republicans, centered in the Midwest, who opposed most Democratic priorities but had gotten used to losing, and
- Goldwater Republicans, ideologues who would flock to Ronald Reagan and become the modern Republican Party.
And so the parting on the right is a parting on the left. Meet today’s Democrats:
- Lieberman Democrats, who try to modify (slightly) the incumbent party’s programs but generally go along with them;
- Washington Democrats, who oppose most Republican priorities but are ineffectual, and
- Dean Democrats, netroot activists who want to fight.
Is history going in the same direction? Yes. At the same rate, in the same way? Of course not. Dean lost the nomination of his party and became party chair (although Goldwater’s 1964 running mate was party chair William E. Miller.) Javits was challenged, unsuccessfully, by more conservative Republicans, who eventually launched their own Conservative Party to fight him.
They did OK. They ran the party for many years and for a time held real power. While Dirksen himself died in 1969 his House counterpart, Gerald Ford, did become President (much to his surprise) in 1974. Richard Nixon ran in 1968 mainly as a Dirksen Republican — he had to beat out Ronald Reagan for his party’s nomination. Dirksen-type Republicans dominated the party until 1980, when the Reagan wing became powerful enough on its own to force them out.
In other words like it or not you need these people. And if you want to know why people really hate Hillary Clinton, The Long View is simple. She’s the real New Nixon. (Republicans already know this, by the way.)
P.S. Personal story. Back in the summer of 1974 I was interning for a conservative magazine. We were asked to provide the crowd for a taping of William F. Buckley’s Firing Line. During the camera set-up I portrayed Buckley’s guest for the evening. In exchange for my cooperation I got to sit in the front-row, Indian-style, a few feet from Buckley and his guest.
The guest was Gerald Ford. During the interview Buckley made it clear to Ford that, within weeks, he would become President of the United States. I think it was the first time someone forced him to hear that. I will never forget the look I saw in his eyes that day. It frightened him. I always liked Jerry Ford as a result.