Editorial: GOP unity needs discussion not silence

Editorial Board

Last week the Iowa GOP hosted the Ronald Reagan Commemorative Dinner. The sold-out event featured Iowa Republican leadership, including U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Gov. Terry Branstad. Also arriving in our fair state for the dinner was Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas.

While the motives for Cruz appearing in Iowa are rather clear — it’s never too early for 2016 — his appearance brings to head a recent and oh-so public divide within the Republican Party.

On the one hand, Branstad and many of his fellow economic conservatives hold a pragmatic view of governance and encourage fiscal responsibility and limited government that comes across to some hardliner conservatives as weak or diluted.

On the other hand, Cruz and his following have ideas based upon ideology that might as well be cast in stone and a no-holds-barred take on wresting our country from those they feel are leading us down the wrong path.

While these two groups of the GOP certainly agree on a wide variety of issues, they differ on how they seek to bring life to their causes. That difference will only be exacerbated in the coming years, as we will once again face national political campaigns.

Instead of taking Branstad’s advice and following President Ronald Reagan’s “11th commandment” (not speaking poorly of other Republicans,) the Republican Party needs to take the precious months not relegated to nationwide campaigns to figure out exactly where their party should position itself.

It is obvious that tensions exist between various groups in the GOP — one need not look further than the often inflammatory remarks the recent government shutdown prompted by such republican lawmakers as Sen. John McCain, of Arizona and Rep. Peter King, New York — but that does not mean that the party must keep itself divided.

Doing so only harms the conservative interests in America, just as the Republican Party injured itself so severely when President Theodore Roosevelt returned to run under the flag of the Bull Moose Party of his own invention designed to take on what he considered a failing Republican Party.

At the time, it was understandable that the two factions would split. Today, it is equally understandable that the Republican Party seems to be moving in such a direction. The current GOP, however, should learn from its previous mistakes.

Instead of refraining from hashing out their differences in full view of the public, the Republican Party needs to seize the opportunity to show that they are not two completely distinct groups, merely that they have disagreements, as any political coalition should.

Putting off discussion of the public rift in their party will only lead to future anguish and confusion. Looking back to the Republican presidential candidates of 2012, distinct lines can be drawn between social conservatives, such as Rick Santorum, who eventually took the Iowa Caucus in a misreported win over Mitt Romney, an economic conservative powerhouse.

That dichotomy of candidates should not be appearing so late in the process of selecting a contender for the presidency. Rather, the Republican leadership would be better served by presenting a united front.

A mere imitation of that front is what Branstad proposes by suggesting that Republicans should limit themselves to only good words on their fellow conservatives. To truly create a single, focused party, the GOP will have to actually resolve their differences.

Although it might be disdained by some members of their party, that resolution comes not only from speaking — a favorite pastime of Cruz — but from listening. Taking in all points of view their party encompasses, and directing them into honed political action is the purpose of political parties.

Perhaps some in the GOP have forgotten that, but as their elephant mascot would suggest, it is never too late to remember.