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The Exodus of the Realists

Dan McCarthy and Leon Hadar have both recently discussed the possibility of a continued exodus of realists from the GOP. Hadar writes:

So I am afraid that McCarthy is right to be concerned that not unlike the neoconservative hawks who deserted the Democratic Party and joined the proto-Reagan Republicans during the reign of the so-called McGovernites in the 1970s, many Republicans who subscribe to realist principles will refuse to accept their party’s foreign policy drift.

As I’ve suggested in previousposts, the exodus of realists from the Republican Party has been happening for most of the last decade and will keep happening as long as more hard-line elements within the party treat them with so much disdain and loathing. The main things that seem to keep the exodus of realists from turning into a stampede are personal and/or sentimental attachments to the Republican Party and a lack of sympathy for most of the other party’s priorities.

When Republican realists say that they may not be able to support their party in the future, hard-liners are happy to see them go and have no desire to win them back. The GOP’s ongoing foreign policy weakness is not a problem that hard-liners see a need to solve as long as they remain dominant inside the party and continue to represent the party publicly in foreign policy debates. While hard-liners would no doubt like to regain power, they expect that to come at the expense of other factions in the Republican coalition and not at theirs. After each of the last three electoral defeats, two of which were very heavily influenced by the public’s war-weariness and loss of confidence in Republican foreign policy stewardship, hard-liners have managed to avoid any blame for the consequences of their preferred policies. Eventually, Republican hard-liners won’t be able to escape responsibility for the damage they have done to their party, and new cohorts of Republicans that aren’t trapped by the confines of hard-line obsessions could end up replacing them and could give exiled realists a reason to come back to the GOP.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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