There Is No “Republican Civil War.” There’s Just the Right, Winning.

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 7 2014 2:52 PM

There Is No “Republican Civil War.” There’s Just the Right, Winning.

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There is a war against Common Core, however, and it's led by Glenn Beck.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

One of the emerging narratives of the North Carolina primary—a race that spawned countless stories about the "Republican Civil War"—is that said war may be over. The media giveth, the media taketh away.

The media was wrong all along. "Civil War" is an unhelpful frame through which to view what's happening in the GOP. The base and donors, sometimes in tandem, are constantly pushing the party to the right. Sometimes they succeed by ousting politicians; sometimes they succeed by changing what the current crop of politicians stand for. 

A few examples? OK.

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1.) The conservative movement is at war with the Common Core curriculum, which for an older generation of Republican grandees (Jeb Bush, for example) is totally uncontroversial. Right now Thomas Piketty's hot-selling Capital is about to be overtaken, on Amazon, by a (much cheaper) new Glenn Beck book all about Common Core. Beck, who's an even better showman than the French economist, even has a promo video.

2.) David Koch's Americans for Prosperity, and a few smaller Koch-connected groups, have been at total war against the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a New Deal creation that finances sales of American exports. This, again, is an obscure but far-reaching issue that was uncontroversial for years. But AFP has rebranded the bank as "the Beltway Billionaires' Bank," and is asking its gigantic activist network to join in the fight. This week AFP gathered other Beltway conservative leaders to denounce the bank and encourage Republican senators to block reauthorization. House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling has been fighting the bank's requests, decrying—you might guess—cronyism.

3.) Most of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate—though not all of them—just signed on to a letter asking for a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks. No "Civil War" here, as almost every Republican state legislator who's seen a similar bill has signed it. But it's a cause from the social right, moving the whole party in that direction.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.