The Factions of the Republican Party

There are many philosophies flying under the Republican banner, some of which have come into conflict over recent issues. Some underlying principles, such as small government and personal responsibility, unite these groups. More often, however, these groups represent the various ideas that individuals combine to become their personal version of Republican.

Fiscal conservatives come in two forms, which often overlap. There are deficit hawks and, for lack of a better description, capitalists. Deficit hawks are the low-tax, less-spending Republicans often reflected in the Tea Party movement. They strongly support shrinking the size of government and reducing the deficit, especially at the federal level. They usually align closely with free-market supporting capitalists, who fight for deregulation and oppose government market intervention (for both social and economic reasons). They generally favor a flatter, simpler, less progressive tax system, or the “Fair Tax”.

The hands-off government approach toward economics is contrasted by the Religious Right’s belief in government enforced social controls. They have their roots in opposing abortion and the Roe v. Wade decision, and have since adopted stances against gay marriage and pornography. They also oppose stem-cell research. One other distinguishing characteristic is their vocal support of the Free Exercise Clause of the first Amendment, supporting prayer in school and opposing government control and regulations for religious entities.

Opposed to the Religious Right on certain social issues are Libertarians and some “Moderate” Republicans. These “socially liberal” ideologies believe in strong individual rights, and that people generally should be left to their own devices. Libertarians in particular believe in a strict reading of the constitution, oppose government spending for social welfare, and believe strongly in free market forces and privatization. They are often strongly in favor of State’s rights. Libertarians are also opposed to the war on drugs, and take a non-interventionist foreign policy.

Neoconservatives are defined by an interventionist foreign policy. They believe in a strong military with a global presence, and support pre-emptive military action. The War in Iraq and the practice of “nation building” illustrates the manifestations of this philosophy, which asserts that implementing democracies is a proactive force not only for the U.S., but the world. The school of thought evolved from liberals who sought a more aggressive stance against the Soviet Union. Neoconservatives are also traditionally very pro-Israel.

Paleo-Conservatives are non-interventionist like Libertarians, but unlike other types of conservatives they support restrictions on immigration and are generally protectionist when it comes to economic issues, such as tariffs. They oppose multiculturalism. This means that they reject the notion that diversity is a good thing in and of itself, and they support assimilation.

These diverse, sometimes contradictory opinions of the Republican Party have materialized in several stories recently. Notably, the immigration debate, the use of unmanned drones in fighting terrorism, and the possible intervention in Syria have shown the difference in these schools of thought. What is most interesting is that your average Republican can hold any combination of these ideas, or others. The limitations of a two party system are manifest because people are complex, and cannot be reduced to one issue. One issue may be their top priority, but theories of governance are not so limited.

Additional Resources

The Washington Post, House Republicans Broken into Fighting Factions:

The Washington Post, Why the GOP’s Youth Vote Problem = President Obama:

Grand Old Party for A Brand New Generation:

Conservatism and the Rise of Ronald Regan:

Global Research, Neocon 101:

Bill Moyers, The Religious Right and The Republican Platform:


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