From county chairmen to national party luminaries, veteran Republicans across the country are accusing tea party lawmakers of staining the GOP with their refusal to bend in the budget impasse in Washington…
The anger emanating from Republicans like Sununu and Barbour comes just three years after the GOP embraced the insurgent political group and rode its wave of new energy to return to power in the House…
Iowa Republicans are recruiting a pro-business Republican to challenge six-term conservative Rep. Steve King, a leader in the push to defund the health care law. Disgruntled Republicans are further ahead in Michigan, where second-term, tea party-backed Rep. Justin Amash is facing a Republican primary challenger who is more in line with – and being encouraged by – Republicans more in line with pro-business Gov. Rick Snyder than Amash’s tea party base. And business interest groups, long aligned with the Republican Party, also are threatening to recruit and fund strong challengers to tea party House members…
In more than a dozen interviews, Republican leaders, officials and strategists at all levels of the party blamed Obama for the shutdown but also faulted tea party lawmakers in the House, who have insisted that any deal to reopen the government be contingent on stripping money for the health care law.
“Dear Ted,” said the card to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on the fruit and snack basket from 1-800-FLOWERS sent by Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change and the former Democratic Party communications director. “A Texas sized thank you!! Thanks to you, Obamacare is more popular and the GOP is less so. Keep up the Good Work!! Yours, Americans United for Change.”…
Word of Woodhouse’s gift has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill, even among some Republicans concerned about Cruz’s tactics, dating to his 21-hour speech on the Senate floor aimed at defunding Obamacare.
Woodhouse described Cruz as the “embodiment of the Tea Party. They don’t care about the Republican Party.”
Asked whether he was concerned that the shutdown fight would do lasting damage to the public perception of the GOP, conference attendee Edward Bartlett shrugged. He said he was a fan of Sen. Ted Cruz, and admired the Tea Party hero’s unwavering push to defund Obamacare. If his principled stand hurts the establishment GOP, so be it…
Daniel Schlueter, a high school history teacher from southern Maryland who was dressed in the traditional colonialist-inspired Tea Party uniform, said he felt no loyalty to the Republican Party. He was upset with the GOP’s dismissive attitude toward libertarians in 2012.
“I’m more conservative, that’s where my basis lies — that, and general disgust for the weak-kneed, go-along-get-along, RINO Republicans. The dinosaurs; we don’t need them,” Schlueter said…
All this has added up to a party whose members feel little ownership for its success — and sometimes seem to be rooting for its failure. While people like John Boehner might be fretting over the results of the WSJ/NBC poll, the conservative voters who sent the Tea Party to Washington are hardly giving it a second thought. Their loyalty is to the movement: the party is just a disposable tool to accomplish their goals.
What’s happening today is quite unlike the “Contract With America” movement of the 1990s. The tea party is a grass-roots movement of people deeply dissatisfied with the United States’ social, cultural and economic evolution over several decades. It’s crucial to understand that they blame both parties for this degeneration. In a recent Gallup survey, an astounding 43 percent of tea party activists had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party; only 55 percent had a favorable view. They see themselves as insurgents within the GOP, not loyal members…
This explains why the Republican Party has seemed so unresponsive to its traditional power bases, such as big business. Part of the problem is that businesses have been slow to recognize just how extreme the tea party is. (They remain stuck in an older narrative, in which their great fear is Democrats with ties to unions.) But even if big business got its act together, it’s not clear that the radicals in the House of Representatives would care. Their sources of support, funding and media exposure owe little to the Chamber of Commerce.
This is a remarkable reversal. The GOP used to be a party that believed in hierarchy. The Democrats were the loose coalition of assorted interests with little party discipline. For the past three decades, Democrats have nominated outsiders — George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Republicans, by contrast, always nominated the guy who had waited his turn — George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney. And today, the Republicans are dominated by the tea party, which has no organized structure, no platform, no hierarchy and no leader.
The Tea Party movement was empowered to force the Republican Party to get serious about its own pledges and promises about reducing government. Until now, cutting government has meant something very different to those who actually governed: A trim here and there, an entitlement reform elsewhere. Governing Republicans never took their anti-government rhetoric to its logical conclusion. They also underestimated what years of denigrating the government would do to the public’s perception of it. Being a “small government” Republican doesn’t mean what it meant six years ago…
What’s my preferred metaphor? What’s really happening here, I think, is a revolution. It’s not a coup, as tempting as that word might be to those who prefer the old order. A revolution occurs when internal and external circumstances combine to produce a significant change in the way people are governed. A small band of stalwarts usually leads the way.
Under pressure from grassroots radicals and the new outsider groups, the old Republican coalition is beginning to shatter. The single-issue and evangelical groups have been superseded by right-wing populist groups, which are generally identified with the Tea Party, although there is no single Tea Party organization. These groups can’t easily be co-opted by the party’s Washington leadership. And the business groups in Washington, who funded the party over the last two decades, have grown disillusioned with a party that appears to be increasingly held hostage by its radical base and by outsider groups. The newspapers are now filled with stories about business opposition to the shutdown strategy, and there are even hints of business groups backing challenges to Tea Party candidates. “The business community has got to stand up and say we are not going to back the most self-described conservative candidate. We are going to back the candidates that are the most rational,” says John Feehery, a former aide to DeLay and Hastert who is now president of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a Washington lobbying firm.
What Washington business lobbyists say on-the-record about the House Republicans and about Tea Party activists pales before what they are willing to say if their names aren’t used. One former Republican staffer says of the anti-establishment groups, “They want to go in and fuck shit up. These non-corporate non-establishmentarian guys—that is exactly what they are doing. And the problem with that is obvious. What next? What happens after you fuck shit up?”
In fact, Boehner and other Republican leaders in the House now have to worry about their own posts, thanks to the rising threat of a revolt by Cruz’s allies. If the far-right group had their own official party, they would have little hope of forcing Boehner to resign before the next Congress begins in January 2015. But because they are still nominally Republicans, the far-right group still has a say over who holds the gavel.
Herein lies the first hint of a counterintuitive conclusion: In the long term, establishment Republicans in Congress might wield more power if they expelled the far-right group from the party. This would be especially true if, after doing so, they seized the opportunity to move their party closer to the center.
Democrats have long dreamed of just such a schism in the GOP, on the assumption that it would cement their own party’s domination of the national electorate. But they could easily be wrong. The expulsions would be a political earthquake, a dramatic move whose repercussions would capture the attention of Americans for weeks on end. A reinvigorated Republican Party, under the banner of centrists like Chris Christie and Rob Portman, would no longer have its low-tax and small-government messages polluted by anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and anti-poor rhetoric. Such a party might even gain enough seats in swing and Democrat-held districts to replace the far-right votes it had lost.
Mr Chait was suggesting the formation of a centrist Republican bloc, since that group is currently the one being locked out by the tea-party-dominated direction of the GOP as a whole. But centrist Republicans are unlikely candidates to form an independent faction, since they aren’t united around any clear ideology and there are no strong centrist political organisations or well-defined voting blocs to back them. Tea-party Republicans, on the other hand, could be strong candidates to form a third party. Their voting base already detests the Republican leadership and would likely follow them if they rebelled. They have powerful organisations, both at the grassroots level and in the big-donor astroturf world of the Koch brothers. They share a coherent ideology. Their popularity is to some extent concentrated in the South and a few other states.
Of course, there’s not much incentive for tea-party Republicans to leave the party right now, since they’ve succeeded in bending it to their will. But if moderate Republicans finally revolt and dump their agenda, I think tea-party Republicans would have a better shot at launching a sustainable third party than we’ve seen in America in a long time. Not that it would be a particularly good shot; the segregationist Dixiecrats had a similar combination of congressional power, loyal voter blocs and a unifying ideology when they tried to set up the States’ Rights Democratic Party in 1948, and it didn’t last past that one election. Still, for anyone who does want to see American politics shaken up through the entrance of a third party, it’s worth thinking about the congressional-revolt strategy in combination with the bottom-up one.
Republican leaders tend to come from one of two camps. The first is the go-along-to-get-along camp that is happy merely to manage the never-ending growth of government. The second wants to cut back on the size of government, but couches their rhetoric in the hazy, forgotten past of the country’s founding; their arguments against the growth of government are always framed in terms of the Constitution, the rights of man, or other abstract concepts that have little impact on the lives of average American.
Ronald Reagan was the only political leader since the New Deal to argue effectively that government should be reduced because it is bad for people in a concrete sense. Yes, he talked about the Founding, and yes he was willing to compromise where it counted. But in his Inaugural Address he said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” For the next quarter century, American liberalism was on the run, so effective was Reagan’s framing of the debate.
Republicans who wonder why they have generally failed to win national electoral victories since Reagan should ponder his statement, and how they have failed to expand upon it. Poll after poll indicates that today it is a popular position. People think government is harming them. If Republicans want to win, not just electoral victories, but policy victories, they need to follow the Gipper and explain in real terms how government is harming average Americans and how they will fix those harms. They have failed to do that in general over the last decade, and they have failed to do that in particular with Obamacare. It is a big reason why they only control the House and why Obamacare is still on the books.
Via the Daily Rushbo.