The mathematicians and the priests

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By Rick Howell


The argument between Republicans these days – no matter how last week’s elections turned out – has been described this way: it’s a battle between the mathematicians and the priests.
    The mathematicians in this theory would be the small tent of GOP moderates, especially the ones who understand population demographics.
    They’re saying, ‘Look. The numbers don’t lie; old, white men are dying out; there are ever-increasing numbers of blacks, Hispanics and Asians, a great many of whom are consistently voting Democratic more than Republican.
    ‘They voted against us in ‘08, and in ‘12; they’re not ever going to vote for us unless we change something...’
    Then you have the priests, who are, of course, the new creature with fangs that we know of as “tea party.” These people present an incendiary opposition to Barack Obama, demonizing beyond all reason the president’s signature law, the health care reform bill, while posing as some sort of divinely-appointed defenders of the constitution, which, of course, only they truly understand.
    And you can guess what they they’re saying: ‘Look, we know we possess the truth; we know we’re right. We have to keep fighting winner-take-all kinds of battles, even if election results will be bad for a while.
    ‘We’re all about our principles, and we must not back down.’
This struggle, we’re told, is for the “very soul of the Republican Party,” a party that you could argue has already sold its soul to the most right-wing factions that so now pull it down to defeat after defeat.
    It would seem that if one side can’t tame or defeat the other, both may remain powerful enough that, at some point, the priests or the mathematicians might bolt the party. Such a development could even be the beginning of the end for the Republican Party itself.
    Yet, there was one person in the area last week that both Republican factions ought to have  listened to, but probably didn’t.
    Bill Clinton came to Roanoke’s City Market Building to boost the candidacy of Democrat Terry McAuliffe. In the process, Clinton, as usual, cooly and carefully analyzed the paralysis in Washington, D.C.
    Noting that many had criticized McAuliffe for his reputation as a “deal maker,” Clinton said, “Looking at what’s going on in Washington, please, give me a deal maker!”
    The former president then lauded the benefits of working together, and noted the example he’d seen set by the relationship between House Speaker Tom Foley, a Democrat, and the then-House GOP leader, Bob Michael.
    Clinton had attended the memorial service in D.C. For Foley, at which Michael, now nearly 90, spoke. Clinton remembered him saying “when did it become ‘weak,’ as fanatics think, to believe in compromise?’
    Or, as Clinton put it: “In places (countries) where people are working together, things are going well. In places where they’re not, there are problems.”
    The former president, indirectly, even weighed into the local battle between the priests and the mathematicians, singling out for courage a former Republican state senator, Brandon Bell, who had crossed his own party to endorse McAuliffe.
    Bell and other such Republicans, including the Va. Beach mayor, and the many GOP donors who wouldn’t give to Cuccinelli, seem ready for a fight with the priests.
    But the priests seem to be sticking with Ted Cruz, whose government shutdown produced only two deadly occurrences of “24” for the party.
    The shutdown cost the government (meaning us) $24 billion, and the Republican Party was left with a 24 percent approval rating.
    The priests and the mathematicians have about six months to hash things out before the mid-term elections take shape, not to mention the 2016 presidential race.
    There will be blood.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com.