Henry John Temple — Lord Palmerston — is remembered (when remembered at all) by Americans for being the prime minister of the United Kingdom during the American Civil War. Palmerston kept Britain from recognizing the confederacy when quite a few Englishmen of his generation thought it would be a good thing if their former colonies split in two.

Palmerston is also celebrated for saying many memorable things about politics, including his remark about an up-and-coming politician nearly 50 years his junior. “Beware of that young man,” Palmerston told a friend about a young Conservative, Robert Cecil, who went on to three turns as prime minister. “He possesses one of the secrets of success,” Palmerston said, “for instead of defending himself and his cause, he attacks the other side.”

The GOP ought to ponder that observation as it considers its course as the “loyal opposition.” There is much talk today about the splits in the Republican Party, though similar rifts plague the Democrats. But the sharpest, deepest divide remains between the two parties. Rarely in recent memory has it been so clear. Rarely has there been less of a center. Republicans must focus all their energy on regaining the majority in Congress.

To do so, consult a third Victorian-era prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, who believed in party loyalty. “It is not becoming in any Minister to decry party who has risen by party,” he declared. “We should always remember that if we were not partisans, we should not be Ministers.”

For Republicans of this era who know that sharp words for each other will grab attention from the press and cable television, Disraeli also has advice: “A majority is better than the best repartee.”

If Republicans forget that party loyalty matters, they could be out of power for a long time.

The two parties’ differences are clear:

Both parties spend too much money, but Republicans regret doing so, aware as they are of inflation’s approach and its cruel devastation when it arrives.

Democrats care about teachers’ unions. Republicans care about schools.

Democrats desire the approval of the world. Republicans prefer to lead it and take such approval as it comes.

Democrats generally don’t trust the military. Republicans trust it almost completely and have to be shown where it has erred or been profligate. Democrats want to spend less on weapons. Republicans want more.

Democrats disapprove of the wall on the border and pretend it doesn’t work at all. Republicans want it finished because it works to some degree and effectively communicates that a border exists, and that the country has the will to enforce it.

Both parties have fringes. Republicans need to drive out their own. Democrats are untroubled by their fringe and are in league with some major news media to ignore it.

Republicans want to help the poor, especially the homeless, and don’t think government is very good at doing so. Democrats think only government is big enough to get that job done, though they admit the need for better systems.

These are all significant divides. While in the minority, Republicans should attack on these points. They must draw distinctions with Democrats — not each other.

Unless they prefer repartee to majority.

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