Although the Rush Limbaugh flap seems to have been successfully tamped down, for the time being, the Republicans are still joyfully forming circles and pointing their rhetorical assault rifles toward the center, this time over the latest gaffe unleashed by Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele. Steele asserted in an interview with GQ that abortion was a choice.
The commenters at some conservative blogs and sites seem to be in one of two camps: either Steele is inartful and/or learning on the job and the base of conservative Republicans must be patient; or, Steele is a squishy moderate willing to sell out true conservatives and conservatism and he, as with all RINOs, must be purged from the GOP for the sake of party and ideological purity.
In this micro debate, as is the case with the post election debate in the Republican party and conservative movement in general, those who advocate purges and purity seem to be routing those in the party and movement who advocate moderation and reaching out to potential supporters beyond the hardcore base.
But of course Limbaugh won’t be silent for long, whether it’s this specific assertion by Steele that sets him off or some other entry point into the larger debate over the future of the party. (And it actually is really more of a debate over the future of the party rather than the future of the movement.) Steele might not last long as RNC chair, but his personal presence or absence in that position is less important that the symbolism of what he, or a more doctrinaire replacement, holding that office says, about the face the party wants to put forth.
If he is forced out by a nasty pubic fight culminating in a vote of no confidence or else suddenly decides he wants to spend more time with his family, his replacement will undoubtedly be an ideologue who favors purges and purity over what will then be seen as the failed efforts of a bumbling moderate to reach out to people real conservatives should not really want to reach out to anyway.
From my left of center view, this seems like a broad strategic mistake for conservatives and Republicans. Also, from my left of center perspective, this perceived mistake by my political and ideological opponents seems like a very good thing.