Real talk: I don’t know much about the particularities of the Georgia Republican Party, as an official group that meets and decides Republican-y things. Not my crowd.
I entered the Georgia GOP convention at the Classic Center expecting to find a political monolith, same from its core to the periphery. Having watched four years of rigid discipline in the party to stymie President Obama, I was prepared to find lockstep uniformity.
But I also knew that, nationally, the GOP is struggling with its identity, that the largely Southern conservatism of the tea party is in conflict with so-called centrist Republicans from the country’s vast remainder. (It’s a bit more complicated, but that’s the basic outline.)
This is what I did know going in, a cobbled-together set of Beltway truisms. There’s an intense division—or divisions, more accurately—in the party. And yet, despite this apparent civil war, I still harbored the sense of a monolithic thing, an indivisible and indistinguishable cast of thousands, a whole convention of Republicans.
What I found was a party very much divided, in strange and deep unease at holding unprecedented power in the state while watching national power slip away, perhaps for a generation. The tea party assails the party establishment and vice versa, while the young “liberty” movement (loosely affiliated with Ron Paul) challenges both.
The identity crisis is profound. Only at a GOP convention can you pass by someone at a table selling Confederate memorabilia talking with a self-described atheist who wants gay undocumented Mexican immigrants granted citizenship and married tomorrow. (That happened.) Or a Massachusetts-bred, pro-choice Jewish Republican who argues with her rabbi about her penchant for coming to synagogue armed. Or a Republican who sounds more intuitively Marxist than your typical Occupy protester.