Excerpt from a Jack McElroy column on the labels appropriate for reporting on the Republican wing wars:
Clearly the GOP is divided, but what do we call the two sides of the divide?
“Liberal” and “conservative” are out of the question. There’s no such thing as a liberal Republican in 2014. Even “moderate” is considered pejorative.
Are they just conservatives and really conservatives?
Vanderbilt political science professor John Geer has made reference to the Bill Haslam and Ron Ramsey wings of the party, the followers of the business-first governor and “Red to the Roots” Senate leader. I guess we could refer to the Haslamians and Ramseyites, though those sound more like Old Testament tribes than new millennium voting blocs.
The term that is used widely for the loyal opposition is, of course, tea party Republicans. But that’s where I’ve been taking heat. For months, state Rep. Bill Dunn has questioned the News Sentinel’s imprecise use of that term, most recently last week:
“Today’s editorial once again mentions tea party Republicans,” he wrote. “I still don’t know what that means or how you determine who is in that camp. … I really wish you would stop using the term. It makes you seem really biased, especially when you don’t use similar monikers for Democrats.”
I’ve admitted to Dunn, a thoughtful and hard-to-pigeonhole conservative, that we shouldn’t throw the term around willy-nilly. However, the comparison to Democrats isn’t particularly relevant. There are not enough of them left to divide. And in the face of the GOP’s super-duper majority, who cares what they’re called anyway?
As to determining who is in “that camp?” Womick got 15 votes in his race against Harwell. Balloting in caucuses is secret. But I suspect those 15 would be happy to be called tea party Republicans.