Bill Marsh in the Times has a large graphic-style spread on the factions of the GOP — generally a less ideologically diverse party than it was a decade ago. I don’t want to dispute here the relative weight he gives to “Main Street Voters” as opposed to Tea Partyists and the Christian Right. He is correct I think in depicting libertarians as a smaller, less loyal faction, but still a sizeable part of a potential GOP coalition.
What fascinated me was the slot given to neoconservatives. In the graphic, they didn’t even rate a real elephant, just a dotted outline of one. Marsh writes:
Neoconservatives, advocates of a hawkish foreign policy, took a beating in 2006 amidst broad opposition to the Iraq war. Their constituency has largely disappeared, but the agenda lives: Mitt Romney is offering an updated version to an electorate now less focused on foreign policy.
A lot to unpack in this paragraph, which has the appearance of an afterthought to a larger graphic essay about big GOP constituencies. I think it’s largely correct: the neocons don’t have many voters in the party. How many Republicans do you speak to anywhere outside of Washington and New York for whom making war on Iran is the most critical thing they want Washington to deliver? But – despite that – they still hold the reins guiding Romney’s foreign policy. Marsh doesn’t try to explain this — how could he, how could anyone? But it is perhaps the most interesting and important fact about 21st century American politics — that the foreign policy of what is quite plausibly the governing party is determined by a group with no real voters in the party.