By Erick Erickson -
There was a time, particularly in the latest Bush administration, that Republican and conservative were just synonyms. The mass party switching that occurred from 1994 to 1996, when so many Democrats became Republicans, left conservative groups free to focus on the GOP without having to build bridges to the Democrats. There were no conservatives there anymore at the national level.
Then the Bush administration came in and conservatives and Republicans were treated as the same and many conservatives put party good over principle. If it advanced the party, it would advance conservatism they thought. We should have known something was up when Fred Barnes penned his “Big Government Conservatives” piece in the Wall Street Journal. It was all down hill from there.
The Republican Civil War that so many fixate on is what I actually refer to as the great unraveling. The ties that bind the GOP to conservatism have loosened and those who put principle over party are separating from those who put party over principle. That’s not to say there are no conservatives in the GOP anymore. There are plenty. But where they draw the lines of demarcation and compromise are different from those who would prefer the principle to the party.
As we move from here, though, it is increasingly apparent that there are some in the party who are going to cast nationalism as conservatism. We should all be concerned and conservatives need to be vigilant.