Primary Intensifies Republican/Tea Party Division

Let’s embalm Wednesday, June 4th as O Day. Because it will be Over, it being the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. The back to back to back TV ads will be Over. The incessant emails, social media messages, and robo-calls will be Over. The persistent, pernicious blogs will be Over.

At least for most of us, it will be Over. For the battle-scarred activists of the Mississippi Republican/Tea Party, it will continue. The scars are real. The division is intense. The consequences will be significant.

I am reminded of the contentious Republican gubernatorial primary between Gil Carmichael and Leon Bramlett in 1979, itself an outgrowth of the Ford/Reagan convention split in 1976. Lasting bitterness among key activists is what I remember most.

In both contests what is known as Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment was trashed, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” In his autobiography An American Life, Reagan clarified that he did not coin the commandment, but did adopt it:

“The personal attacks against me during the (California gubernatorial) primary finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It’s a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.”

Speaking ill of fellow party members in attack ads has become quite common in modern GOP primaries, the Georgia Senate primary being another good, I mean, bad example.

Violating the commandment has spread much further though. Speaking ill of fellow Republican elected officials has become a tactic used to gain notoriety, a tactic particularly favored by Tea Party flavored leader Ted Cruz.

There are other platitudes besides Reagan’s commandment that Republican/Tea Party activists violate at their peril:

No house divided against itself will stand (Matt. 2:25)

Union is strength (Aesop Fable – Bundle of Sticks).

Do nothing without a regard to the consequences (Aeson Fable – The Two Frogs).

Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).

Of course, these moral guides apply to more than just political parties. They apply to families, organizations, religions, and nations.

If we could get up on a mountain and look out over the world…. Oops, wrong century. If we just lie back in our recliners and watch CNN or tune in to Twitter, we can observe the many whose chosen mission is to divide, not unite…to deceive, not illuminate…to destroy, not save.

At the same time, we can observe numerous acts of heroism, generosity, and great sacrifice in the face of disaster. That can only come from resilient American good will.

Guess that means no O Day. The fight between good and evil – yes, evil – is never over.

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