Milbank: Republican “fratricide” is right around the corner, you know

posted at 5:22 pm on November 17, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

Disappointed that Hillary Clinton’s defeat meant that the “Republicans in disarray” narrative wouldn’t get trotted out this month? Dana Milbank offers up a view of what might have been. He attended a House Freedom Caucus meeting yesterday, where frustrations with their relative strength and influence got aired. His report reads like wishcasting, but it’s not as bad as the headline — Intraparty fratricide looms over the GOP.

You mean, the party that won the election and now controls all of Washington DC? Not the party that lost its fourth consecutive House election and booted a shot at Senate control by misunderstanding the electorate? Er … suuuuuuuuure:

On Wednesday afternoon, House Republicans from the hard-line Freedom Caucus assembled for the first time since the election for the monthly “Conversations with Conservatives.” In one hour, they served up enough intra-GOP disputes to last four years. …

They took positions at odds with Trump on entitlement programs and split with fellow House Republicans on returning lawmakers’ ability to fund pet projects through earmarks.

They bitterly opposed efforts by some Republicans to protect Ryan from procedural vehicles for removing him from the speakership.

And, during their hour-long Q&A with reporters in a House hearing room, they signaled a potential donnybrook with Trump over executive power.

Carved on the moderator’s lectern was an eagle and “E Pluribus Unum” seal. If Wednesday was any indication, the motto may become “E Pluribus Chaos.”

Well, Wednesday is likely not much of an indication. Milbank reports that some of the caucus “bitterly opposed” efforts to keep Ryan in the Speaker’s seat, but … Ryan easily won the vote in the full House Republican caucus, reportedly without any ‘nay’ votes. The only public objection to the leadership elections came before the GOP swept on November 8th, and it was a moderate Republican that asked for the delay, not a Freedom Caucus member. Furthermore, Ryan shot down the attempt to restore earmarks, so this is one fight that conservatives won with one of their own at the top of the power structure.

The point here isn’t that Republicans aren’t going to have disagreements, some of them profound. We saw that during the election, and we’ve seen it all along. In the two-party system, both parties comprise several factions, with varying degrees of agreement and tension. It’s not exactly a shock to see the Republican factions working through those tensions in the wake of an unexpected victory.

But …fratricide? That’s what election losers do. And in fact, that’s what Democrats may have begun this week by postponing their leadership elections:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday pushed her party’s leadership elections past Thanksgiving, relenting to pressure from frustrated members who are questioning the Democratic Party’s direction after a disastrous election result.

The delay heightens the chances that Pelosi could face a rare challenge to her long tenure atop the party.

The California Democrat had scheduled the elections for Thursday, but she got an earful Tuesday morning from a long list of lawmakers urging a longer timeline to allow “an internal conversation” about the party’s path back to power, in the words of Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who led the charge.

The Washington Post’s report on this rebellion in Democratic ranks oddly never mentions the word “fratricide”:

Younger lawmakers are upset Pelosi never convinced the caucus to impose term limits on top committee posts — most ranking members of key committees are over 70-years-old — and still allows seniority to be used as the top criterion for selecting the panel leaders. But CBC members are upset that Pelosi has even considered imposing such restrictions, saying that if political measures like fundraising dictate those assignments, members from low-income districts will never get the fruits of victory.

Meanwhile, across the Rust Belt, Democrats are furious the party leadership is almost entirely coastal, leading to an agenda that focused on liberal cultural positions as President-elect Donald Trump won their states with an economic message.

Those seem like pretty profound issues too, especially given the beatings that House Democrats have taken in the last four elections. It’s curious that we’re not hearing about fratricide or “E Pluribus Chaos” in connection with Democrats. That “Republicans in disarray” narrative was just too pretty to put on the shelf, apparently.


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